Bolivia has created a new energy ministry focused on electricity and renewable power, as the country tries to boost both its clean energy credentials and its electricity exports.
The new strategy was announced at the same time as Bolivian President Evo Morales enacted a major Cabinet reshuffle.
Rafael Alarcon, who was previously CEO of state electricity company Empresa Nacional de Electricidad (ENDE), will head up the new ministry. The department will be formed by splitting off the power and renewables functions from the existing ministry, which will focus solely on hydrocarbons following the split, local reports said.
It is expected to have two deputy ministries; one focused on conventional resources and the other on non-conventional energy sources.
The Bolivian government was not available for comment when contacted by NewsBase.
Among the renewable energy projects to be prioritised by the new ministry are biomass and solar projects. The Laguna Colorada geothermal project, located in the south of Bolivia near the border with Chile and Argentina, is also thought to be high on its agenda.
New renewable energy projects spearheaded by the ministry will require investment of up to US$1.4 billion, according to local reports. It is not yet clear to what extent those projects will be financed by the state.
The Andean nation is looking for ways to diversify and strengthen its energy sector to meet the low oil price challenge, which has hit its hydrocarbon-dependent economy hard. Specifically, it is looking for ways to lessen its dependence on natural gas and become an ‘energy hub’ in the Southern Cone.
Last year the Bolivian government said it was planning to invest US$1.4 billion in the development of renewable energy. La Paz has said it wants to develop at least 400 MW of renewable energy in the next five years.
Eduardo Paz, CEO of ENDE, has said that Bolivia is studying 11 renewables projects that will develop a total of 420 MW by 2020. There will be four solar, four wind, two biomass and one geothermal facility among the projects, according to Paz.
The government has said it aims to export 1,500 MW of power from thermal power plants (TPP) by 2025, as well as between 6,500 and 7,000 MW of hydroelectric power.