Nicaragua has one of the most aggressive renewable energy goals in the world — it intends to have 94% of its electricity come from renewable energy by 2017. The spark for this new energy push was an energy crisis due to a heavy reliance on foreign oil. Reducing this over-reliance from 70% to 6% could be made possible by renewable energy infrastructure development.
While these goals may seem unachievable in a poor country with technological challenges, there are only about six million people living there, and a single, very large hydroelectric plant could go a long way toward providing clean energy. The Tumarin project will cost about $1.1 billion and has a 253-megawatt capacity. It should be completed by 2016 and could provide about 50% of the country’s electricity.
The Amayo I and II wind farms are producing about 63 megawatts, and a 72 MW geothermal project — the San Jacinto-Tizate — could become operational by 2014. Bagasse already supplies a small percentage of their total power, and solar is also an option.
The switch from fossil fuels to renewables could move Nicaragua from one of the most oil-dependent nations to one of the least in a very short time. “You must recall that this is taking place in the second-poorest country in Latin America and amid the worst financial, economic social and increasingly political crisis of world capitalism since the Great Depression of the 1930s,” said Nicaraguan presidential advisor Paul Oquist.
Often, because the largest nations are perceived as being more important, news about them gets the most attention, and some of them struggle to make significant changes quickly. As a result, there is too much skepticism — even cynicism — about the viability of renewable energy. Green energy is not just another fad, though. If Nicaragua gets to 94% renewable electricity by 2017, it will become an inarguable example of success, not just environmentally, but also economically — because a significant portion of its GDP will no longer be spent on foreign oil.