Irregular Rainfall Throws Doubt In To Viability of Hydro Generation

Irregularities in the rains that are provoked by climate change are leading the country to doubt hydropower as the basis of national electricity supply.

The concern made the Government ask the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) to have a study to determine the effect of present and future variability in rainfall on electricity production.

This was carried out in an agreement ,Subsectorial Energy Council, approved May 2.

In this high-level committee, we have the Minister of Environment, Energy and Telecommunications, René Castro the chief executive of ICE, Teofilo de la Torre, and the president of the Costa Rican Oil Refinery (Recope), Jorge Villalobos all involved.

The Minister Rene Castro said that climate change in Costa Rica and the world is affecting areas such as hydro production.

“What I want is to have a formal study and then make a deep discussion.” said Castro.

Today the dams represent 59% (1,644 megawatts) of the country’s installed capacity (2,766 MW). Last year these plants contributed 73% of generation.

In that year, was incorporated Pirrís plant (134 MW) the hydroelectric generation decreased more in 2010.

Therefore, the country burned more diesel and bunker to make up for the missing energy needed.

The analysis was responsible to ICE and the financing could come from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). In addition, they should define if geothermal-based volcanic gas, could become the basis of energy supply.

Geothermal energy has the advantage of being continuous all year and is less polluting. Also, it is 10 times cheaper than that produced with hydrocarbons.

The plants totaling 200 MW today and it is considered that the full potential of the country may exceed 800 MW.

There would be 600 MW that are not exploited but have the limitations of being in protected areas.

Gilbert de la Cruz, director of the National Electrical ICE Planning, explained that geothermal energy is firm and has fewer emissions of greenhouse gases, so the country should not miss the opportunity and use them.

In his opinion, there is still no evidence of the effect of climate change on hydropower. But there is more marked extremes: very dry periods or very rainy and flooding, Rene Castro said.

Walter Vergara, head of the Division of Climate Change and Sustainability Bank, confirmed the interest to support studies on the impact of climate change in generation.

“It’s the right time to perform a long-term planning and make decisions to increase the resistance of the generation system to the impacts of climate change,” he.

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