These last few years can be classified as the period of consolidation of renewables throughout the world, despite the historical trend that dictates that with low oil prices humanity tends to forget about the investments made in these energy sources, returning once again to popular consciousness once the price of crude oil in the markets escalates. And what prices we have had, historical lows since 2009, but even with this the renewable energy business – and the environment in general – have emerged strengthened by the action of two fundamental factors, which were not previously foreseen: the notion of change climate established in the community; and the political commitments among industrialized countries to reduce their Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions within the framework of COP 21.
From China to the United States, the European Union and regions with an oil tradition such as Alberta (Canada), are considering goals for the reduction of GHG emissions for the medium and long term of 28% by 2025 (USA), 40% (2030). and 80% (2050-EU) both with respect to 2005 values, while China will stop increasing its emissions by 2030. Added to this is the Vatican’s Encyclical Laudato Si’ which calls for rapid and unified global action to combat environmental degradation and climate change, which points towards a greater commitment to clean energy (solar and photovoltaic) and the energy efficiency that these require. In this article the actions that are necessary for a Venezuela with full penetration of Renewable Energies will be exposed.
Renewable Resources in Venezuela
It is well known that Venezuela is a country abundant in energy resources of various types, from those of fossil origin (oil, natural gas, etc.), to renewables such as water, sun, wind and even geothermal energy. Now, the question that should be asked is the following: What is the amount available in these renewable sources?
As far as solar energy is concerned, when talking about photovoltaic systems there is a concept called “Peak Solar Hour” (HSP) and refers to an approximate indicator to determine the number of hours that a solar system would work nominally. , and therefore, the magnitude of the resource in a given locality. The HSP is born from the method for testing solar panels, since the standard requires that the delivered power reported by the equipment (nominal power) be measured under an incidence of 1000 W/m 2 . In this way, knowing the average energy delivered in a day by the Sun -in Wh/m 2 -, and dividing this by 1000 W/m 2, HSPs from anywhere in the world can be found. In Venezuela, HSP values between 6.5 and 4.5 can be found throughout the entire length of the national geography, with the country’s annual average being close to 6, a value that is considerably higher than in countries with wide penetration of the technology such as Spain, Germany with a global average of between 1.5 – 1.8 and 1.1 – 1.3 respectively.
From the hydroelectric point of view, the nation has monumental works such as the Guri dam, which with its 10,000 MW installed capacity is the third generation plant of its kind in the world, and developments downstream of it such as They are: Tocoma (under construction); Caruachi; and Macagua I, II and III, who together contribute more than 65% of the electricity consumed by the country.
Finally, but just as valuable as the others, the wind resource in Venezuela, especially in the coastal region, is classified by experts in the field as world-class because it is mainly made up of trade winds that not only handle high speeds but a very constant flow. There are studies that estimate that approximately 10,000 MW of usable wind power are concentrated between the Paraguaná Peninsula and the Venezuelan Guajira. Does that number sound familiar to you? And what about what that magnitude represents in the world energy panorama?
Public Policies to Promote Renewable Energies in Venezuela
As commented in the article Realidad de las energías renovables en Venezuela , their great weakness, up to now, is that they must be installed where the resource is available and take advantage of it when possible, that is, when the wind blows or when the sun shines.
Even though in the short term developments are foreseen that could revolutionize the mode of operation of renewables, such as the large-scale accumulation of energy, more efficient PV equipment, among others, in the different countries with these technologies, it has been required a certain number of actions to promote them and massify their actions. Many of them have been very similar between nations, with the particularities of each legislation. Based on this experience, for renewable energies to become established in Venezuela, the following actions are required:
- Modify the current regulatory framework , making possible the inclusion of natural and legal persons in a national energy market, in which there is not only the figure of self-consumption – user who consumes the energy generated by himself – but also the possibility of exporting electricity to the network, this contribution being recognized through a payment by the electric company. This can be made as extensive as the state’s provision.
- Promotion of self-consumption and honesty of the rate of large consumers. Once the regulatory framework has been modified, investment in self-consumption should be encouraged. This can be done either through the implementation of a Feed In Tariff scheme or double turn meters, subsidizing the initial investment and the current tariff structure must be reviewed, especially in large residential consumers. Currently, the subsidized rate for electrical service does not allow for an attractive return on investment for investors (from people in single-family residences to housing complexes) to decide to purchase this equipment.
- Open the way to concessions, through the agreed legal mechanism for the construction and operation of renewable plants (wind and solar). This may be possible, through the concessionaire or joint venture agreement, creating the space for foreign companies with experience in the matter to develop facilities of this nature in the country, considering that all the conditions must be met for renewable systems to have economic sustainability and are not a burden for the State in the future.
- Promote national production for the supply chain. As is the case with the automotive industry, incentives can be generated for the national production of parts, both mechanical and electronic, of the equipment necessary for the operation and maintenance of these plants.
- Adequacy of the electrical network for a scheme of self-consumption and variable generation. In order to guarantee the stability of the National Electric System (SEN), the studies and the corresponding investments in the network must be carried out, both at the distribution and generation level, to prevent the large-scale fluctuations characteristic of the renewable resource from leading to network impact. Likewise, the differences in the SEN between the centralized generation scheme (current) and one with a high incidence of self-consumption users should be considered.
- Promotion of Research and Development (R&D) of renewable technologies, with a market vision. Whether associated with massive energy generation, small scale, or consumption reduction and energy efficiency, legal mechanisms are currently available to promote and produce knowledge (commercial patents), products and services that support a growing market for these technologies, that they arrive in the medium term to compete with the imported equipment. It is important to note that in order for the patent business to recover its national boom, fundamental structural changes must be made to Venezuelan legislation, beginning with the State’s perception of the matter.
- Inclusion of Chairs on Renewable Energies in the different Study Pensa. A renewable energy market cannot exist without professionals from various disciplines who can attend to it, much less R&D can be promoted without the flow of people who nurture said studies and, in turn, are trained by carrying them out. Currently there is the human capital to undertake these actions, but the contribution of foreigners can be encouraged through programs similar toEcuador’s Prometeo .
In conclusion, the table is set for renewable technologies to be at the forefront of the world, once and for all displacing fossil fuels as an energy source for electricity generation, all this through a series of binding multilateral agreements. among the countries of the world to reduce their influence on GHG emissions, as a last effort to stay below the 2 °C band. For Venezuela to present itself in this matter, it simply requires political will and a series of simple actions described here that will promote not only the sector, but also bring economic development, inventiveness and quality of service to the National Electric System. We already have the difficult thing – The Renewable Resource – we just need to learn to exploit it in a sustainable way.
Published in: Venezuelan Commodities Magazine, 16th Edition. pp 22-24. ( See publication )
This topic was also presented at Intercom Valencia 2016 . See presentation.