Monday, January 20, 2014

South America News Roundup Sept 12, 2011: Uruguay Energy, Argentina-Brazil Defense Cooperation

article from September 12, 2011
By Jamie Douglas

Uruguayan energy

Once again, this small republic, la República Oriental del Uruguay, or en inglés, the Eastern Republic of Uruguay, is marching to its own drummer. Lacking its own energy sources save for a few small hydroelectric projects, this nation, squeezed by its much bigger, energy hungry neighbors, Brazil and Argentina, has to seek its resources from abroad. The Uruguayans have been paying a premium to the Argentineans for power transmitted over that nation’s grid from the Itaipu hydroelectric project located mostly in Paraguay, which is exploited by the neighboring giants at prices that were established in the 1980s and beyond.

Now enter the good guys in white hats: Spain’s Enerfin Sociedad de Energia SA has offered to build wind farms in this notoriously windy country, proposing to sell the harnessed energy for US$62 per mw/h. Compare that to the $10 per mw/h that Argentina is charging Uruguay just for the use of its grid. This is because the Argentinean government of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner wants to buy all the surplus electricity generated by Paraguay for itself at the highly controversial rates established earlier, without taking into account that the market price for energy has risen steeply.

Uruguay has 500 mw of wind power projects in the works, and according to Ramon Mendez, the country’s director of energy at the Ministry of Industry, the plans are to up that to create 25-30 percent of the country’s energy need from biomass and wind power, which is 40% cheaper than the cost of energy generated with fossil fuels. Since the announcement by Mr. Mendez and the awarding of contracts to Spain’s Abenoga SA, several others have made proposals to the Uruguayan authorities to produce the power for as low as $62.35.

Currently the cost of fuel-generated electricity is $73 per mw/h, while within three years, the cost of that, with the inclusion of the wind power generated, is forecast to drop to $45 per mw/h. The Eastern Republic stands to gain significantly from the economic crises that have engulfed Europe and the USA because there is very little demand in the struggling developed nations, but the manufacturing capacity needs to be utilized. Competition is fierce between the different providers of systems, giving way to the happy situation of a buyer’s market.

I hope that Uruguay will hold on to its third-place ranking among low polluters in the region. Viva Uruguay!

Argentina/Brazil defense cooperation

Last week, these two South Atlantic economic powerhouse nations held a high-level meeting while in Buenos Aires for a regular defense and cooperation conference, and to the great benefit of their people, they agreed to declare the region as a peace and cooperation zone, free of nuclear weapons. The groundwork for this historic agreement was laid following the recent meeting between the two presidents, Dilma Rousseff and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. At the same meeting, the two nations signed an agreement for Brazil to refurbish Argentina’s aging inventory of tactical missiles, just in case…

Plans are to hold joint military exercises, with the possible participation of third nations, as well as the coordination of responses to actions by others (I assume the UK) and further cooperation in logistics and support of Antarctic operations.

Both of these nations have very poor track records with the abuses committed by their armed forces against their own citizens, and I am wondering why they would want to keep such highly armed forces on their national territory. The monies that could be saved, along with the benefits in education, housing and medical care, would greatly contribute to the safety of the state and contribute to the well-being of its citizens. Perhaps during the next meeting, a voice in the wilderness will plant the seed of multilateral 80% disarmament, with the rest of the forces being combined into a regional defense force that could be deployed for the region’s many natural disasters. Well, I can dream, can’t I?

Jamie Douglas
San Malbec, Mendoza

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