Central America is an economically and ecologically diverse region with growing energy needs and unique vulnerabilities to climate change. Boosting investment in renewable energy is a key way that the region can protect its ecologically sensitive areas while achieving reliable access to clean energy for its population. In Central America, the top four renewable energy sources are geothermal, hydroelectricity, biomass, and wind. The relative importance of each renewable resource is different for each country depending on the geographical and geological situation. The Worldwatch Institute has recently begun work aimed at creating a favorable policy and investment environment for renewable energy in Central America.
Globally, the electricity sector is one of the largest and fastest-growing consumers of energy. It is therefore important
to consider the role of state and private utility companies in transitioning Central America to renewable energy sources. One of these companies, BELCOGEN, a subsidiary of state owned Belize Electricity Ltd (BEL), has received enormous amounts of attention and praise due to its recent investment in a 31.5 megawatt (MW) biomass power plant fueled by bagasse. BEL invested US$63 million to create BELCOGEN and the bagasse project. The price tag has officially made the deal the largest private investment ever made in Belize. Originally, the project was scheduled to be completed in 2007 and the investment was much lower; however, the necessary investment grew as the scheduled date of completion was postponed, and the project was finally completed in 2009. The plant runs on a combination of 92 percent bagasse and 8 percent heavy fuel oil. BELCOGEN is contractually obligated to sell at least 106 gigawatt-hours (GWh) to BEL for the first year of operation, making the company the source of at least 20 percent of Belize’s national energy demand. The rest of the energy produced (up to 44GWh) will be sold to Belize Sugar Industries Limited (BSI).