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Hydropower, The Clean Motor Of Latin America's Energy Future

Brazil's Itaipu dam illuminated
Brazil's Itaipu dam illuminated
Mauricio Garrón


LA PAZ — As it stands now, half of Latin America's power is generated by hydroelectricity, an energy source that is also of vital importance worldwide, producing more electricity than all renewables combined.

Hydropower is especially beneficial for countries that depend on global commodity prices — particularly with regards to oil, natural gas and coal — as it allows for deeper and more affordable energy independence. It is also why Latin America currently has the world's cleanest energy matrix.

In addition, hydroelectricity projects provide important investment opportunities in the region. The International Energy Agency estimates that by 2035, Latin America's hydroelectric power grid will add 277 gigawatts of installed capacity at a cost of more than $250 billion.

This is a challenge for the public sector and a great opportunity for the private sector, which is gradually increasing its investment share in renewable energies and has already become a crucial financing component in the Latin American electrical market. Public-private partnership schemes must ultimately play an important role in bringing about these future projects and investments.

Latin America is well suited for hydropower. It has five of the world's most important rivers (the Amazon, Orinoco, Río Negro, Paraná and Río Madera), three of the world's biggest lakes and, in Brazil alone, a fifth of the planet's water resources. Brazil, in fact, is the world's second leading producer of hydroelectric power after China. And there's lots more power here that has yet to be tapped. Experts say that Latin American has so far developed just 20% of its total hydroelectric capacity.

The mighty Amazon — Photo: Wallygrom

Demand for electricity is rising in Latin America. And it must be met — with a safe and stable power supply of power, but with less reliance on fossil fuels. That's why hydroelectricity is so key. But there's a catch. For hydropower projects to really work, they must be done in a sustainable way.

This remains one of Latin America's greatest challenges, given the need to consider both economic, and environmental and social factors. It is essential, therefore, that all country's in the region join forces to face the challenges together. Only that way can we all benefit from this power source.

The good news is that we already have positive examples to draw upon. The Itaipú hydroelectric plant, for example, with a generating capacity of 14,000 megawatts, is able to supply around 17% of the electricity consumed in Brazil and 76% of the power needed in Paraguay. It has become an example of how to manage and improve the environment in which it functions, and is considered one of the world's top clean-energy projects.

Along those same lines, the Andean Development Corporation – Development Bank of Latin America, or CAF, as it's known, is working with national and regional authorities on a project to boost sustainable use of the region's water resources. The program helps countries identify untapped water resources, plan sustainable power projects, and improve and/or rehabilitate existing power plants to prolong their shelf-lives.

The message, looking forward, must be clear: We must work together to assure a stable and sustainable energy supply that will benefit all Latin Americans and ensure competitive use of our resources.

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Geert Wilders, The Europe Union's Biggest Problem Since Brexit

The victory of Geert Wilders' far-right party in this week's elections in the Netherlands shows that politics in Europe, at both the national and European Union level, has fundamentally failed to overcome its contradictions.

Geert Wilders, The Europe Union's Biggest Problem Since Brexit

A campaign poster of Geert Wilders, who leads the Party for Freedom (PVV) taken in the Hague, Netherlands

Pierre Haski

Updated Nov. 28, 2023 at 6:15 p.m.


PARIS — For a long time, Geert Wilders, recognizable by his peroxide hair, was an eccentric, disconcerting and yet mostly marginal figure in Dutch politics. He was known for his public outbursts against Muslims, particularly Moroccans who are prevalent in the Netherlands, which once led to a court convicting him for the collective insulting of a nationality.

Consistently ranking third or fourth in poll results, this time he emerged as the leader in Wednesday's national elections. The shock is commensurate with his success: 37 seats out of 150, twice as many as in the previous legislature.

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The recipe is the same everywhere: a robustly anti-immigration agenda that capitalizes on fears. Wilders' victory in the Netherlands reflects a prevailing trend across the continent, from Sweden to Portugal, Italy and France.

We must first see if Wilders manages to put together the coalition needed to govern. Already the first roadblock came this week with the loss of one of his top allies scouting for coalition partners from other parties: Gom van Strien, a senator in Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) was forced to resign from his role after accusations of fraud resurfaced in Dutch media.

Nonetheless, at least three lessons can be drawn from Wilders' far-right breakthrough in one of the founding countries of the European Union.

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