Renewable Energy Uruguay

Uruguay Advances in Renewable Energy

Uruguay Advances in Renewable Energy.The Nation’s Latest Investment in Renewable Energy is yet Another Feat of Sustainability.

Uruguay’s latest investment in the development of the Salto Grande dam is part of an impressive record of the country’s strategies in renewable energy and sustainable living. 

Uruguay’s Recent Investment in Hydroelectric Energy

On April 21, 2023, Uruguay ‘s Minister of Industry, Energy and Mining, Omar Paganini took part in the inauguration of the second stage of Salto Grande alongside the Mixed Technical Commission. This hydroelectric dam, situated on the Uruguay River between Salto, Uruguay and Concordia, Argentina, has been in use for forty-three years. 

This second of three intended stages involves renovating its auxiliary and electromechanical equipment, which would extend operations of the dam for forty more years. 

 

Government officials gather for the inauguration of the second stage of the Salto Grande’s development. Photo courtesy of Uruguay’s Ministry of Industry, Energy and Mining.

 

This would ensure that Salto Grande continues to play the key role that it has for Uruguay. Currently, according to Uruguay’s Secretary of the Presidency, Alvaro Delgado, between 32% to 50% of the electric energy used by the country comes from this dam alone.  

Thus this project plays a key role in Uruguay’s renewable energy, and is part of the ministry’s greater vision of “environmental, social and democratic development,” according to Paganini. 

He also remarked,

“The ministry has taken many steps in this direction […]. This vision [is what] distinguishes [Uruguay] from the world and gives [Uruguay] an opportunity to develop —we see ourselves as an example for the world and we want to keep working in this direction— beginning with hydroelectric energy.”

 

Minister Omar Paganini showcasing the second stage of development. Photo courtesy of Uruguay’s Ministry of Industry, Energy and Mining.

 

Renewable Sources in the Electrical Matrix

However, this project is only one of many impressive accomplishments that Uruguay has achieved in the realm of renewable energy. In 2022, 91% of Uruguay’s electricity generation was attributed to renewable energy sources, with only 9% coming from fossil fuels. This highlights a significant improvement from 2021, which saw 15% of the country’s electricity coming from fossil fuels. 

Such a large statistic of renewable energy sources can be attributed to hydroelectric sources, which comprised 39% of the country’s generation of electricity, wind energy (32%) and biomass sources (17%).

 

Represa Salto Grande. Image Credit- Turismo Salto.

 

With such prominent success rates, many have wondered how Uruguay is reaching such a successful sustainability record. This is due in large part to its investment in renewable energy infrastructure. Over the past decades, the country has swapped its formerly used oil grids for biomass, solar energy and about 50 wind parks, according to an article published by the World Economic Forum this year. 

This has not only caused a high amount of renewable energy for Uruguay, but an excess. In 2021, Uruguay took advantage of what remained by exporting 2200 MW of electricity to Brazil and 627 MW to Argentina. 

However, Uruguay is not stopping with its exports or current energy sources. Instead, its government is exploring yet another source of renewable energy: green hydrogen. 

“There’s no doubt that hydrogen will play a very important role in the worldwide decarbonization, and Latin America has the opportunity to join in,” Paganini announced. 

Once developed, it will turn Uruguay into one of the largest exporters of gas, allowing the country to boast $2.1 billion of income and create 34,000 jobs by 2040. 

Another Sustainable Investment: Green Businesses

Beyond Uruguay’s investments in renewable energy sources, the country also funds green businesses. According to the World Economic Forum’s Energy Transition Index from 2022, businesses produce over 30% of the pollution caused by humans. As a result, companies have a crucial role to play towards accomplishing net-zero emissions. 

Due to its sustainable energy policies, many investors are inclined to invest in Uruguayan businesses, according to consulting firm McKinsey. Its main associate, Xavier Costantini, noted that Uruguay’s green businesses will grant it a huge role in sustainability for the world, while also enhancing the country’s internal success. 

“These green businesses represent an important economic opportunity — possibly up to 50% of the GDP — and clearly they would accelerate the socioeconomic development of the country, while [also propelling] sustainability for the planet,” Costantini stated

Empowering Local Green Businesses

Given the large impact that Uruguay’s green businesses have, it comes as no surprise that in March, 2023 the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Mining granted $2,900,000 under the Call for Women Entrepreneurs program to 13 different projects, some of which promote sustainability. 

Two of these projects, Quimera and NaturalMente, focus on sustainable decoration and natural cosmetics respectively. Quimera was launched by Lucia Escardo, an entrepreneur from Canelones. Her company upcycles glass bottles into glasses, vases, small bowls and other decorative objects with a minimalist design. With the $300,000 that she received, she hopes to restructure her website, purchase polishing discs, and obtain technical as well as photography services.

 

Escardo showcasing her products made out of recycled glass. Photo courtesy of Uruguay’s Ministry of Industry, Energy and Mining.

 

“I am very grateful for the support, which is very important in several aspects: As an entrepreneur it allows me to feel supported and driven to continue recycling glass,” Escardo said. 

As for NaturalMente, this company hopes to address the sustainability issues that natural cosmetic companies encounter by offering healthier, alternative products. Founded by Maria Jimena Castells from Montevideo, this family-owned business hopes to use the $350,000 that it received to enhance its rural production of the materials needed for its products.

 

Castells, founder of NaturalMente, is another beneficiary of the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Mining’s funds. Photo courtesy of Uruguay’s Ministry of Industry, Energy and Mining.

 

Such fundsallow [NaturalMente] to develop [its] goals and dreams, expand [its] message and continue to create possibilities from [its] perspective, which prioritizes sustainability and collective well-being,” Castells remarked.

From local investments in sustainability to national investments in renewable energy, Uruguay presents itself as a country that greatly prioritizes sustainability. There is no doubt that the country will continue to lead the world towards a greener place. 

 


Nicole Fuches | Latin American Correspondent, Latina Republic

Nicole is an undergraduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles with a major in Spanish and Linguistics. She is very excited to be a part of Latina Republic as a Latin American Correspondent because thanks to her major, she understands the importance of diversity. Since Latina Republic sheds light on local communities that many take for granted, she knows that this organization encourages precisely that. By joining the team, she feels very privileged to be able to do the same. She looks forward to expanding global awareness on the stories of such communities by exploring social justice issues in Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay. For more stories by Nicole, follow her on Twitter @nicolesf24.