Alfonso Blanco, the Secretary General of the Latin American Energy Organization (OLADE), Fitzgerald Cantero, the National Director for Energy in the Uruguay Ministry of Industry, Energy and Mining, and Vadim Titov, the President of Rusatom – International Network, participated in the first session called “Latin America in World Energy Agenda”.
Fitzgerald Cantero emphasised that renewables play a key role in the energy supply of Latin American countries, while ensuring relatively low generation costs. “The share of renewables (except for hydropower) in primary energy consumption in Latin America is 33%, while for the rest of the world this figure is 18%. However, due to the differentiated structure of renewable sources, this does not result in an increase in the cost of electricity for end customers. Moreover, the energy system is also less likely to be destabilised due to fluctuating commodity prices and fossil fuel shortages. That’s why the region’s energy system proved its strength last year,” Cantero said.
In his speech, Alfonso Blanco mentioned the current state of affairs and the development prospects of the energy sector in Latin America in the context of the global crisis of supply. “The energy programmes of our countries should be aimed not only at passing the energy transition and diversifying energy sources, but also at promoting socio-economic development and improving the living standards of the citizens of our countries,” Blanco emphasised. In his opinion, large oil and gas reserves are the main source of the region’s development. “Budget revenues from oil exports in Brazil reach 20%, in Venezuela – more than 40%, and in some years, they reached 60%, while in Colombia and Mexico this figure is 10% and 13%, respectively. Therefore, a one-time rejection of oil is, in fact, a rejection of budget revenues, a rejection of our development opportunities,” he said.
“Nuclear power plants form one of the four sides of the green square, which also includes hydro, solar, and wind energy. However, wind, solar, and hydro power production can be affected by calm, cloudy and dry weather, while nuclear power plants are able to supply consumers 24/7. At the same time, the cost of electricity generated at nuclear power plants does not depend on fluctuations in uranium prices, which makes it possible for strategic state planning for decades to come. This is why nuclear power plants are an integral part of the low-carbon energy mix of the future”, Vadim Titov said.
The second session was dedicated to the challenges of clean energy availability in the region and the nuclear energy development in Latin America. It was moderated by Lorena Di Chiara, the research fellow from Energy and Sustainable Development Observatory with the Catholic University (Uruguay). The discussion engaged the following distinguished figures: Kaushik Rajashekara (USA), the Global Energy Prize laureate, Distinguished Professor of the University of Houston; Ruben Chaer, Technical Manager of the Uruguay’s Electricity Market Administration; Gonzalo Casaravilla, the ex-President of the National Department of Power Plants and Electricity Transmission of Uruguay; Ivan Dybov, the Vice-President of Brazilian Association for Nuclear Industry Development, President of Rosatom’s regional centre in Latin America, and William Byun (Singapore), the Global Energy Prize International Award Committee member, Managing Director at Asia Renewables.
Gonzalo Casaravilla emphasised that achieving universal access to electricity is impossible without improving the welfare of the poorest countries in the region, including Haiti. “Today, technically, there is a complete set of tools to ensure that all Latin Americans have access to electricity. However, in Haiti, for example, a huge part of the population does not have money not only to pay for electricity, but also to buy food. Without meeting basic needs, it is impossible to increase access to electricity”, Casaravilla noted.
Ruben Chaer dwelled on the issue of managing the energy systems with high share of renewables. According to him, an accurate weather forecast is important for predicting the load of hydroelectric power plants, as well as solar and wind generators. “Weather forecasts are taken into account by automated systems (robots and drones) that distribute the load between different types of power plants. This simplifies the operational balancing of the power system”, Chaer emphasised.
William Byun drew attention to the importance of thorough studying of the microgrids operating on the basis of renewable energy sources. “The value of the microgrids capable of assuring stable energy supplies in the isolated territories will be rapidly growing in the forthcoming years”, William Byun stated. “An example is Indonesia – a country consisting of 17 islands, of which only 3 are united in a common network. The remaining islands are supplied autonomously, which is relevant for Latin America, where a number of small settlements do not have access to electricity”, the expert added
Ivan Dybov spoke about the new energy strategy of Brazil, which provides for the commissioning of 8-10 gigawatts of nuclear power plants by 2050. “At the same time, the construction of not only large nuclear power plants, but also small-capacity nuclear power plants is being discussed. This should increase the sustainability of the country’s energy system, which is currently largely dependent on hydropower,” the expert noted.
Kaushik Rajashekara, the Global Energy Prize laureate, spoke on the initiatives to counteract the energy shortage based on examples from the Indian reservations in the US and from rural areas of India. “In rural India, solar panels are used for both electricity generation and cooking. At the same time, not only coal, but also rare sources are used for energy supply: for example, rice husks and household waste are used as raw materials for biomass power plants,” Rajashekara explained.
Overall, the conference showed that in the coming years, Latin America will demonstrate a growing demand for energy sources that combine low emissions and security of energy supply, including nuclear generation, as well as solar, wind and hydropower. This applies both to the most densely populated agglomerations of the region, which are increasing energy demand due to economic growth, and to remote areas that need uninterrupted power supply while isolated from the public grid.