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Costa Ricans on February 2 will cast ballots to elect a new president who will succeed Laura Chinchilla whose four year term ends May 8.
The road, however, to the country's top government post has yet to provide a clear front runner as three of five candidates each share voter preference of 20-25%. A runoff would be held if a candidate fails to garner over 40% of the vote.
The top contenders are Johnny Araya of ruling center left party Liberación Nacional and mayor of capital San José; Otto Guevara of right wing party Movimiento Libertario; and José Villalta of left wing party Frente Amplio.
Under Chinchilla, power sector efforts have focused on diversification of the generation park and migration away from fuel oil-fired plants paralleled by debate over the degree of private sector participation.
On the oil and gas front, Costa Rica's first female head of state declared of public interest LNG use and issued a three year moratorium on oil exploration. Development of a US$1.5bn expansion of the Moín refinery was curtailed over alleged irregularities.
To shed light on the top candidates' energy priorities, BNamericas outlines proposals contained in their government plans.
JOHNNY ARAYA: "It is impossible to sustain economic growth and the competitiveness of our economy without acting rapidly and efficiently to recover our capacity to produce firm electric power, of quality and at international competitive prices. Dependence of energy imports for transport and national industry must be diminished. The country must focus on expanding and diversifying renewable energy supply with natural gas and biofuels to the national energy matrix."
- Expand private participation and promote strategic alliances between public and private entities to introduce new generation options
- Restructure ICE financing models to reduce impact on rates
- Promote electric-powered public transport and biofuels
- Introduce regulatory improvements for increase operative efficiency in the power and fuel sectors
OTTO GUEVARA: "To update installed capacity of energy infrastructure with the purpose of satisfying demand at more competitive prices, it is necessary to incorporate the private sector to complement the effort that ICE makes in this field."
- Open to competition monopolies held by Recope and in the power sector to benefit consumers with lower cost and better quality products and more efficient service
JOSÉ VILLALTA: "Power generation has positioned itself as a problem that must be adequately regulated; in that sense, Frente Amplio does not believe privatizing power generation will achieve the energy security conditions the country requires, therefore the generation capacity of public, cooperative and municipal entities that exist will be strengthened and there will be advancement in the search and operation of those nontraditional renewable sources (wind, solar, geothermal and biomass) to their maximum capacity."
- Draft within a year and through a participative consultation process a new national energy doctrine to define alternatives for reducing fossil fuel and reaching high energy self-sufficiency levels by 2050
- Draft a national plan to promote energy savings through a reduction of unnecessary consumption and implementation of eco-efficient technologies along with lower rates for homes and industry that save energy
- Gradual reduction of fossil fired power generation through constant development of alternative energy sources
- Rational use of hydropower under strict land planning that guarantees water supply, application of rigorous environmental evaluation and community consultation in particular International Labor Organization convention 169
-Creation of a national renewable energy research institute
- Promotion of micro size local self supply projects, exploration of wave power in the Nicoya gulf and other coastal areas, and solar use at public education centers and revision of construction standards to promote this resource
- Immediate and permanent repeal of the hydrocarbons law and issue measures to prohibit hydrocarbons E&P for perpetuity
- Promote incorporation of alternative energy sources in public transport, replace government vehicle fleets with electric vehicles, limit the import of traditional internal combustion vehicles and provide incentives for the import of electric vehicles
- Rethink Recope's refinery modernization project from a perspective of environmental sustainability and diversification of the country's energy paradigm