Paraguay , Argentina , Mexico , Brazil , Peru and Colombia

Joining the dots in Latin America's clean energy transition

Bnamericas Published: Monday, November 14, 2022
Joining the dots in Latin America's clean energy transition

In an interview conducted via email, Domenico Mazzillo Ricaurte, the head of transmission systems in Latin America for Siemens Energy, tells BNamericas how the company is playing a leading role in the region's shift to a low-carbon energy future.

BNamericas: What are some of the main challenges in the region regarding local and international interconnections?

Mazzillo: There is a common challenge both locally and internationally regarding interconnections and it is the availability of a flexible regulatory framework that allows the rapid expansion of transmission systems that accompany the development of the energy transition, with the possibility of including massive unconventional renewable generation.

We must also work to seek an agile management of environmental permits and guarantee the rights of the communities with an inclusive policy, allowing the communities to participate in the benefits of the implementation of the different projects in their areas.

From the technological point of view, the biggest challenge is in the coordination of the interconnections between countries in order to guarantee the stability and security of the network. It is necessary to use data science and networks that have the capacity to self-learn, in this way we can guarantee the operability of the interconnections and get the most out of them. For this the implementation of technologies oriented to the dynamic change of network parameters is required.

BNamericas: Do you think the current delays in transmission projects in the La Guajira region of Colombia will hinder the growth of solar and wind power in the country? What can be done to avoid further transmission delays in the future and ensure that investments in non-conventional renewables continue at the necessary pace?

Mazzillo: I believe that the intention of the national government is to support the massification of non-conventional renewable energies, therefore, they will be an enabler to accelerate and complete the transmission projects that are underway, such as those in La Guajira.

Transmission works are highly impacted by delays in environmental licensing and consultation with the communities involved. Institutional work must be carried out at the government level to guarantee that these enabling processes for the transmission works are already approved as part of the feasibility process prior to the transmission call.

An inclusive policy that makes communities participate in the benefits generated would help to make implementation more in line with that planned.

BNamericas: Can you tell us about some of the most important grid solution projects in Siemens Energy's Latin America and Caribbean portfolio?

Mazzillo: At Siemens Energy we are committed to supporting the energy transition of our countries and we are the company that can add value to all links in the energy transformation chain.

As a result of this commitment, we have executed different projects that have generated a positive impact, as an example of some we have:

• The expansion of the Yacyretá hydroelectric power plant (Argentina and Paraguay binational entity), where with the supply of GIS substations and associated elements such as transformers, we contribute our technology and knowledge to guarantee the transfer of energy in one of the most important power plants in South America.

• Projects aimed at the implementation of network solutions for the transfer of non-conventional renewable energy for more than 1GW in countries such as Colombia, Argentina, Chile and Brazil, among others.

• In Brazil, with our partner ISA CTEEP, we are implementing the Riacho Grande, Miguel Reale and Ramon Reberte projects with 345kV GIS applications to increase the reliability of the power supply in São Paulo and thus avoid blackouts in the city.

• In Peru, with our partner Engie, we are developing the works associated with the Punta Lomitas wind power plant, which consists of the construction of a wind farm with a nominal capacity of 260MW (50 wind turbines) and would have an expansion of up to 36.4MW (seven additional wind turbines), as well as a 60km electrical transmission line that will connect the plant with the national interconnected electrical system (SEIN).

• In Mexico we are developing all the interconnections to the transmission system associated with the new generation plants that are under construction: Tuxpan, Gonzales Ortega and San Luis de Río Colorado.

As you can see, the contribution that we are generating to our society is very important. Each one of these projects and the many others that we are developing will give better conditions to citizens and populations, thus allowing them to develop and improve their current conditions. 

BNamericas: How is new technology changing the segment and what major changes could we see in the next 5-10 years (perhaps regarding battery storage, digitization and advanced metering infrastructure, hydrogen, etc.).

Mazzillo: The world is in constant evolution, the new challenges that are presented to us force us to respond more quickly and agilely in the implementation of new solutions. Technology plays a very important role, being the natural enabler to respond to these challenges immediately.

Digitization is a fact today, many companies seek to provide a solution to the old maintenance methods with a more efficient system. At Siemens Energy we are focusing on monitoring and digitization in order to provide a comprehensive and customized solution to each of our clients.

The biggest changes in the coming years will be in emerging projects where we will see a combination of renewables such as solar and wind, the inclusion of storage for different uses, projects aimed at generating renewable energy to obtain green hydrogen and any other raw material. Another of the changes that we hope to see is the inclusion of technologies completely free of polluting elements through the incursion of the blue portfolio in order to support the decarbonization objectives of the countries.

BNamericas: Which countries in Latin America and the Caribbean offer the best regulatory framework for network solution projects and why?

Mazzillo: The Latin American energy sector has robust regulatory stability and authorities that are always concerned with improving the existing framework to track investment and increase the efficiency and technological composition of the system.

The renewable growth strategy also enjoys political support from governments, ensuring long-term stability. Local private players, as well as authorities, are always looking for ways to innovate and closely follow international developments in technology.

Regulators are very attentive to new trends, such as the use of storage in both generation and transmission or the use of renewable assets to provide ancillary services to the grid.

Latin America is betting on a wave of private sector-led renewable investment to achieve its ambitious climate goals, with a strategy of setting fair rules and allowing players to compete freely. These factors make Latin America one of the most attractive continents for renewable investment.

The biggest challenge is to provide flexibility in this regulatory framework in order to expedite the implementation of the projects necessary to guarantee regional energy integration.

BNamericas: Without going too deep into politics, how are geopolitical issues impacting the regional energy segment (perhaps we can discuss the impact of the war in Ukraine, the global economic recession, the elections, etc.)?

Mazzillo: The war in Ukraine, the variation in the value of commodities and transportation, have caused a great impact in obtaining the necessary materials to promote the development of electricity in the region due to the rise in prices and the increase in delivery times, but all these impacts become a relevant opportunity for Latin America, which due to its position has all the conditions to be a power in renewable energy and the exchange of it through regional energy integration makes us unique.

The will of the different governments is there, the different private actors are prepared to invest, technology companies are willing to contribute with their knowledge in providing multiple solutions to make the dream of an integrated Latin America possible and real, that is, all the ingredients are there to prepare the best recipe so that the approximately 650mn Latin Americans can enjoy the advantages of regional energy integration. At Siemens Energy we are prepared and willing to be the main players in this energy transformation.

BNamericas: How can remuneration mechanisms be used to incentivize decarbonization? Which country in the region currently has the best remuneration model, one that balances the need to attract investment and encourage decarbonization while ensuring the lowest possible prices for end users.

Mazzillo: I once heard that if we want to do it, we just have to do it, that is, we have to move from the verb to the action and not just stay in the plans. The issue of decarbonization has been widely discussed in different world forums and we still have a lot to do.

The different remuneration mechanisms are a fundamental piece to encourage the implementation of technologies free of any polluting element. In this way we encourage the use of these technologies and support countries' decarbonization plans.

Currently in Latin America there are multiple incentives for the incursion of non-conventional renewable energies and others to support decarbonization, but it is true that more in-depth discussions must still be done within governments and done regionally to allow energy integration and support for decarbonization among all countries.

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