Ecuador's energy efficiency, renewables push

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Much of Ecuador's power sector headlines focus on the country's portfolio of flagship hydroelectric projects. Other areas, however, such as energy efficiency and non-conventional renewable energies also have been tabled into policymaking.

To learn more about these efforts, BNamericas spoke to Andrés Montero, general technical coordinator at the government's national institute for energy efficiency and renewable energy (INER).

BNamericas: What energy efficiency work is underway at INER?

Montero: Energy efficiency is divided into four areas: industry, transport, buildings and public lighting.

One of the first projects underway is a study for low energy consumption buildings in Yachay.

We have zoned the area and created a meteorological archive for energy simulations with the idea of expanding this methodology to all of Ecuador's mountain range. We have designed a small housing prototype and are monitoring data to determine if the model can be applied to larger buildings not just in Yachay but nationwide.

Another project is the evaluation of electricity's life cycle. Ecuador has two principal sources: hydroelectric and thermoelectric plants.

We have focused on determining the environmental cost of building these types of plants from the beginning to electricity production start to identify what type of plant is the most optimum.

BNamericas: Before INER was created, what energy efficiency activity was underway?

Montero: The power and renewable energy ministry has various programs such as incandescent bulb replacement, replacement of refrigerators with more efficient equipment and a program for industry to train auditors in energy efficiency.

BNamericas: What about INER work in the area of renewable energy?

Montero: In this field we have four areas: solar, geothermal, biomass and wind.

In the case of wind we have focused on the Villonaco project in the south. We are determining performance of turbines in the area – which is 2,800m above sea level – because manufacturers deliver capacity curves for sea level. This project wraps up this year.

In terms of solar, we have installed a series of meteorological stations in two provinces to create control methods when generating meteorological archives. We're also reinforcing meteorological stations for Ecuador's meteorological institute. We seek to measure solar radiation, wind speed, direction and other variables for renewable energy projects.

On the biomass front we have various projects. One we already have finished is the implementation of a thermo evaluation laboratory for urban solid waste and biomass. We are working to certify this laboratory.

There also is a biomass project to use pine nuts for the ministry's zero fossil fuel program in the Galapagos.

BNamericas: Considering Ecuador's volcanic mountain range and an early project with Colombia, what are the prospects for geothermal development?

Montero: We have a project that seeks to establish a methodology to analyze samples with different geochemical and geological studies in the south. This project wraps up in August but we plan another next year for the entire country.

Regarding the project with Colombia, the hurdle is financing, because the time has come to drill to determine capacity.

Work also is underway in Ecuador on the legal framework for geothermal, which is lacking, to attract foreign capital.

BNamericas: A few years ago Ecuador's preinvestment institute published a study on marine/wave power potential. Any news on this front?

Montero: Not in this field, which is not part of our action plan, but we've had access to this report and there is not sufficient capacity to use marine currents to generate power. This technology is just being developed on a global level and there are very few prototypes or installed plants, in Portugal, Scotland. Further investigation is needed.



About Andrés Montero

Andrés Montero holds a mechanical engineering degree from Universidad Politécnica Salesiana and post-graduate degrees from Universidad Antonio de Nebrija and Universitat Rovira i Virgili.