Society

After Legalizing Marijuana, Uruguay Now Ready To Save The Planet

Uruguay shows again why it is one of the world's most progressive countries, with the government's recent pledge to aim to use only clean energy in the future.

Wind turbines in Montevideo, Uruguay's capital
Pablo Correa

There is always some piece of surprising news from Uruguay. The South American continent's smallest state, with barely 3.2 million residents, is not just great at football but it's living standards are comparable to developed states. And with sensitive issues such as drugs, it has decided to stop fussing and opt for progressive policies like liberalizing marijuana.

We can add another, even more impressive accomplishment to the list. Uruguay is implementing a veritable energy revolution. The sun that shines between the blue and white on its flag is taking on new significance because the country is on the verge of obtaining all of its energy from renewable sources — and investing 3% of its GDP to this end. About 40% of this clean energy is already coming from wind, solar and biomass.

Picture this: 70% of the loads being carried on Uruguay's highways consist of equipment related to harvesting energy from wind and solar somewhere on the country's surface of 180,000 square kilometers.

One of the architects of this revolution is National Energy Director Ramón Méndez Galain. Uruguay has no oil, he points out, nor gas, and the country has practically used up its hydroelectric potential, while the economy is growing at 6% a year. At the same time the country wants to reduce poverty.

Wind turbines on a roof in Punta del Este, Uruguay — Photo: Jimmy Baikovicius

Uruguayans view the shortage of fossil fuels not as a problem but as an opportunity. The four main political parties reached an agreement and committed themselves to a long-term policy. The country's national energy strategy is now set until 2030, and the parties must keep the agreed course, whoever wins the elections.

There have already been results. Uruguayans have seen their electricity bills drop an average of 6%. In 2012, Mexican economist Tabaré Arroyo, author of the WWF Green Energy Leaders report, cited Uruguay as the Latin American country with the highest share of GDP invested in renewables. In 2014, it was the Latin American country with the highest rate of increased investment in clean energy sources.

The secret, says Ramón Méndez, is simple: a long-term policy, the backing of all parties, dialogue between the public and private sectors, and attracting the best brains. He says Uruguay used various incentives to multiply its clean energy researchers — tenfold.

In 2007, when the country created an "auction" mechanism for companies interested in producing clean energy, many experts qualified it as madness, he recalls. Today, 53 states use the auction model. It basically consists of allowing companies to bid for particular quantities of energy production, with contracts going to those offering the best prices. In return, they are assured business for at least 20 years, along with certain technological facilities. Electricity generation prices are competitive and have approached $60 per megawatt hour.

"Everything was foreseen but Uruguay's victory," former FIFA chief Jules Rimet said after Uruguay won the 1950 World Cup.

The country may be looking at another victory in the 21st century's global renewables contest.

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La Sagrada Familia Delayed Again — Blame COVID-19 This Time

Hopes were dashed by local officials to see the completion of the iconic Barcelona church in 2026, in time for the 100th anniversary of the death of its renowned architect Antoni Guadí.

Work on La Sagrada Familia has been delayed because of the pandemic

By most accounts, it's currently the longest-running construction project in the world. And now, the completion of work on the iconic Barcelona church La Sagrada Familia, which began all the way back in 1882, is going to take even longer.

Barcelona-based daily El Periodico daily reports that work on the church, which began as the vision of master architect Antoni Gaudí, was slated to be completed in 2026. But a press conference Tuesday, Sep. 21 confirmed that the deadline won't be met, in part because of delays related to COVID-19. Officials also provided new details about the impending completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin).

El Periódico - 09/22/2021

El Periodico daily reports on the latest delay from what may be the longest-running construction project in the world.

One tower after the other… Slowly but surely, La Sagrada Familia has been growing bigger and higher before Barcelonians and visitors' eager eyes for nearly 140 years. However, all will have to be a bit more patient before they see the famous architectural project finally completed. During Tuesday's press conference, general director of the Construction Board of the Sagrada Familia, Xavier Martínez, and the architect director, Jordi Faulí, had some good and bad news to share.

As feared, La Sagrada Familia's completion date has been delayed. Because of the pandemic, the halt put on the works in early March when Spain went into a national lockdown. So the hopes are dashed of the 2026 inauguration in what would have been the 100th anniversary of Gaudi's death.

Although he excluded new predictions of completion until post-COVID normalcy is restored - no earlier than 2024 -, Martínez says: "Finishing in 2030, rather than being a realistic forecast, would be an illusion, starting the construction process will not be easy," reports La Vanguardia.

But what's a few more years when you already have waited 139, after all? However delayed, the construction will reach another milestone very soon with the completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin), the first tower of the temple to be completed in 44 years and the second tallest spire of the complex. It will be crowned by a 12-pointed star which will be illuminated on December 8, Immaculate Conception Day.

Next would be the completion of the Evangelist Lucas tower and eventually, the tower of Jesus Christ, the most prominent of the Sagrada Familia, reaching 172.5 meters thanks to an illuminated 13.5 meters wide "great cross." It will be made of glass and porcelain stoneware to reflect daylight and will be illuminated at night and project rays of light.

La Sagrada Familia through the years

La Sagrada Familia, 1889 - wikipedia

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