Investors sought for renewable energy projects

Wednesday, December 3, 2003

Ecuadorian law firm Vivanco and Vivanco is seeking companies interested in providing technology and financing to develop small-scale biomass, wind power and geothermal generation projects, lawyer Alonso Vivanco Riofrio told BNamericas.

The firm would prefer a group of companies, with experience in Latin America, which could work together with local governments, he said.

Vivanco and Vivanco is acting as a consultant for one of Ecuador's largest sugar refiners to develop a US$12mn-14mn, 32MW biomass project in the north of the country, which would burn sugar cane husks to generate electricity.

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The law firm has contacted Finnish company Wartsila about the possibility of providing technology for the project, but there is nothing definite yet, Vivanco said.

The Finnish company is also developing the 300MW Termoriente thermoelectric project in the east of the country, which will use crude oil as fuel, and "we are pretty sure that Wartsila could be our partner in this case," he said.

Wartsila is promoting its new biomass technology in Latin America, particularly in Chile, and the Finnish government is providing loans at favorable terms for these projects.

Biomass projects can also qualify to sell carbon emissions credits to developed countries under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) established by the Kyoto Protocol.

Using sugar cane husks to generate electricity is a win-win proposition for sugar cane growers and industries in Ecuador, Vivanco said, because growing sugar cane is not profitable on its own and industries can obtain a relatively cheap source of fuel for electricity generation.

Vivanco and Vivanco could later develop a second biomass project on its own using 5,000ha of sugar cane also in the north of Ecuador, he said, adding that studies will have to be carried out to determine the investment required.

With electricity prices in Ecuador relatively high at some US$0.14/KWh, many large industries are looking at alternative energy sources as a way to reduce their electricity costs in the long term, Vivanco said.

In addition, Ecuador's government offers companies that develop renewable energy projects, the incentive of a "much better" electricity rate, he added.

Wind power is another renewable energy resource that has plenty of potential in Ecuador, but which has not been developed, said Vivanco, whose firm is helping the Santander Group develop a US$10mn, 30MW wind power project in southern Ecuador's Loja province.

Santander hired a Spanish firm to carry out studies, which showed there is a lot of wind power potential in the area, he said, adding this would be the first wind power project in Ecuador.

"We are looking for a company that wants to implement this," Vivanco said, adding that similar wind projects in Chile and Mexico involving private companies and local governments are good examples for Ecuador to follow.