By: Monti Aquirre, Latin America Program Director
Last year, International Rivers and the Peruvian organization Forum Solidaridad commissioned a study about Peru’s energy future. We wanted to understand what plans were in the works, and rigorously examine whether these plans were in step with 21st century realities.
We asked Dr. Alberto Ríos Villacorta, an engineer, researcher and renewable energy expert currently at The Technical University of Ambato, in Ecuador, to examine two current plans for Peru’s energy future: the National Energy Plan 2014-2025 from the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MINEM), and the New Sustainable Energy Matrix (NUMES) prepared by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
Now the results of the study are out, and they are troubling. The plans both double down on the use of fossil fuels in the transportation sector and for electricity generation; they endorse only very modest energy savings and efficiency plans; and only timidly promote the integration of renewable technologies in the national energy structure.
According to the study, Peru is heavily – and dangerously – dependent on fossil fuels. Fossil fuels supplied 72% of the country’s energy consumed in 2013, while non-hydro renewables provided 12%, and hydroelectricity provided 11%.
Dr. Ríos Villacorta suggests that Peru’s dependence on fossil fuels “presents an extremely complex and potentially dangerous situation” because of the country’s scarce fossil fuel resources. Furthermore, complex international geopolitical circumstances will increasingly make it risky and difficult to maintain “continuity in providing energy based on fossil fuels.”
Both the IDB and MINEM plans rely heavily on hydroelectric dams. Peru currently has 15 dams planned and has identified roughly 60 other potential sites for dams, mostly in the Amazon. But Rios’s study dismisses dams as a legitimate source of renewable energy because of their social and environmental impacts, and because of their vulnerability to climate change. The report says that Peruvian hydroelectric dams will be particularly impacted by climate change: “the future energy production of large hydrodams could be seriously affected by the reduction of Andean glacials and changes in pluviometrical patterns caused by climate change phenomena.”
The study does recommend that existing dams be refurbished and upgraded with newer technology, but Rios recommends Peru engage in river basin planning before any more dams are proposed or built.
Dr. Rios’ study found that neither plan adequately explores Peru’s capacity for generating energy through true renewables like wind, solar and geothermal. In addition, neither plan boosts energy efficiency measures, which have led to unanticipated drops in energy demand in many industrialized countries, including the US and China.Peruvian childrenInternational RIvers
The National Energy Plan’s renewable energy forecasts, in particular, are profoundly out of step with what’s happening globally. According to the plan, non-hydro renewable energy (wind, solar, biomass and geothermal) is not expected to exceed 5% of the total generating capacity by 2025. Dr. Ríos notes that MINEM’s energy projections are at odds with the international community, which is currently adopting renewable energy systems and implementing energy savings and efficiency plans at a rapid clip.
The study recommends that Peru:
- Foment radical change in the transportation system by reducing oil dependency, disincentivizing private transportation and providing incentives for the use of sustainable transportation systems.
- Implement a plan to promote sanitary solar hot water systems.
- Create a National Plan on wind energy that will integrate 5000 MW of wind energy into the grid in the next five years, substituting it for energy now provided by natural gas plants.
- Conduct a zoning study of river basins, in collaboration with the Ministry of the Environment and Ministry of Agriculture, to identify areas to protect and areas where projects could be built.
- Map oil exploration and exploitation, documenting and ultimately protecting areas of great biodiversity that are at risk.
In light of its uncertain energy future, Peru must analyze existing renewable resources, evaluate the costs of renewable technologies, and develop proposals to transform its currently dirty, unsustainable and fossil fuel-dependant energy model into a model that respects the environment. This study points the way towards an economy based renewable energy, saving plans and energy efficiency, as well as the intelligent and respectful consumption of energy, associated with a culture of energy sobriety and simplicity of future generations.
Dr. Ríos says that Peru must face the fact that it’s not a real oil producing country, and it must minimize exploitation in areas of high biodiversity – which means it shouldn’t pursue dams as aggressively as it could pursue options like wind, solar and geothermal.
Forum Solidaridad and International Rivers will present the study to regional governments, and a more user-friendly version will be prepared for the general public.