In the coming years, Latin American countries will have to make major investments in electricity generation and grid infrastructure in order to meet growing energy demand and provide universal energy access. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, power generation in Latin America and the Caribbean will have to double by 2030, requiring an investment larger than $700 billion. Over 31 million people in the region lack access to electricity and many countries still depend on fossil fuels for power generation, causing economic vulnerability due to volatile prices. Hydroelectric power is the other main source of electricity for many Latin American countries, but recent changes in precipitation patterns signal an uncertain future for this traditionally reliable baseload energy source in the face of climate change.

Creating integrated regional power systems by connecting national electricity grids can alleviate some of these challenges facing Latin America, especially for those countries seeking to provide affordable and reliable electricity to their citizens while constrained by limited natural resources, poor infrastructure, and low investment levels. By pursuing regional integration, countries benefit from economies of scale, complementary energy resources, lower costs of energy infrastructure development, and stronger regional cooperation. A regionally integrated power system can provide energy security at lower costs by increasing power generator and utility access to markets and diversifying the mix of energy sources. Furthermore, it facilitates the penetration of renewable energy by creating a market for financing large-scale projects and by providing increased grid stability necessary for high levels of intermittent energy sources like solar and wind.

Latin America could benefit greatly from regional power systems integration (source: commons.wikimedia.org)

In April 2012, at the Sixth Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, the Connect 2022 initiative was introduced. Its aim is to ensure universal access to electricity to people in the Americas by 2022. This past June, in support of the Connect 2022 initiative, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the U.S. Department of State hosted a dialogue in which commitments for energy integration in Latin America were strengthened.

Read the rest of this entry

Central America, Connect 2022, developing countries, electricity, energy policy, grid integration, IDB, Latin America, Proyecto Mesoamerica, regional electricity integration, renewable energy, SIEPAC, SINEA

A step in the right direction or something else for CARICOM to trip on?

By Mark Konold and Cristina Adkins

In March 2010, Nexant and the World Bank produced a report looking at opportunities for greater regional cooperation in the Caribbean, particularly with regard to electricity markets. The report argues that interconnection, especially between islands of the Lesser Antilles, could be highly economic. This is welcome news when you consider that the small size of Caribbean electricity markets is a leading factor behind high energy costs on these islands, as well as a major barrier to regional use of renewable energy.

In recent months, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic have been exploring ways to connect their respective electricity grids using an undersea cable. To help further the idea, Spain recently directed funding through the World Bank to initiate a feasibility study for the connection. Joining the electricity markets of two of the Caribbean’s largest economies could kick off wider integration for the region, a move that Puerto Rican Secretary of State Kenneth McClintock says will “create a large-scale transnational electricity market in which Caribbean countries could trade renewable energy rather than oil.” If McClintock is right, it could have interesting consequences in the region.

Read the rest of this entry

Caribbean, CARICOM, electricity, grid integration

When it comes to clean power, can you have too much of a good thing? The answer, at least in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, is yes. The Bonneville Power Authority (BPA), the federal agency that operates 15,000 miles of transmission lines and 31 hydroelectric dams in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and parts of five other states, recently proposed a slight adjustment to its dispatch rules – the rules that determine the priority with which different power generators are deployed. (See Figure.) BPA now hopes to achieve a more harmonious coexistence between two renewable sources of electricity: wind and hydroelectricity.

Transmission System and Federal Dams in the Bonneville Power Administration

Read the rest of this entry

endangered species, grid integration, hydropower, renewable energy, United States, wind power

When most people check the weather forecast they want to know if it’s going to rain or whether they need to put on an extra layer. Wind farm operators and utility operators are more interested in a different kind of weather. They need to know exactly how much wind they can expect where and for how long in order to produce the maximum amount of electricity and ensure grid stability.

But what if you want to do more than just nowcasting?

Wind forecasting is crucial both for wind farm operators and utility operators. Accurate forecasting allows operators to achieve favorable trading performances on the electricity markets. The further in advance an operator can make a reliable estimate about how much electricity he will produce, the more profit he can make. Network operators require reliable and accurate data to absorb the growing share of wind power and anticipate shortages due to rapid changes in wind speed and direction. In Denmark, the country with the highest share of electricity from wind energy, a change in wind speed of one m/s can result in a change of 450MW in national electricity production.  Improvements in wind forecasting, in increasing the profitability of wind farms and allowing easier grid integration, would greatly facilitate the development of future wind projects.

Read the rest of this entry

denmark, Energinet.dk, grid integration, numerical weather prediction, offshore wind, renewable energy, United States, weather, wind forecasting, wind power, Xcel Energy