Around 37 hydropower projects in Panama are in design or under construction, according to the Authority of Public Services (ASEP), as part of a push for renewable energy in the country.

Of this total, 24 are located in the province of Chiriqui, with a project in Bocas del Toro, 10 in Veraguas, one in Cocle and one in Columbus.

Together, the projects total 662,145 MW, of which 394.04 MW are set to be developed in the coming years. A total of nine permanent licenses for 931.8 MW has been granted, mainly in the provinces of Cocle and Veraguas.  

When it comes to licenses for solar photovoltaic (PV) generation, there are 22 projects in the provinces of Chiriqui, Cocle, Veraguas, Panama, Los Santos and Herrera, which total about 484,202 MW.

There are also three projects with definitive licenses for thermal generation in the provinces of Colon and Panama, totaling 194.83 MW.

Panama’s objective is to achieve a sustainable energy system in the country to meet its high power demand.  

ASEP has closed the period to create a National Energy Plan by 2050, after consultations with various trade bodies on what steps to follow to improve the energy situation.  

“After 16 days in extraordinary meetings with all sectors nationwide we have reached the end of drawing up a plan,” the authority said, adding that the plan’s main objective is have democratic participation from all sectors.

The plan will dictate the route to be followed and the long-term strategies to promote the transformation of the national energy system, with a view towards a sustainable system.

The project will assist the development of renewable resources and the rational use of energy through an orderly and gradual process, taking into consideration the social and economic conditions.

Meanwhile, Panama’s energy consumption continues to increase. Consumption has already reached 1515 MW, while in January 2015 it stood at 1105 MW.

Panama is not the only country with huge investments in hydropower. Brazil has raised $4570 million with the concession to operate 29 hydroelectric plants, an amount that will help alleviate the power deficit in the battered country. Plants totaling more than 6 GW of installed capacity and concession contracts have a term of 30 years from the signing of the contract.

China Three Gorges Group, operator of China’s Three Gorges hydropower plant, considered the largest in the world, won lot E for its ability to generate energy, which includes the operation of the Ilha Solteira (3400 MW) and Jupiá (1550 MW) plants.

Meanwhile, Enel Green Power, a subsidiary of the Italian renewables group Enel, won the operation of the Mourao I and Paranapanema plants.

The Copel, Cemig and Celesc firms obtained concessions for the operation of smaller lots.

Brazilian authorities are seeking to raise $2.9 billion.

The government relies on those resources to reduce the primary deficit record already expected this year, about $13,930 million), which is the equivalent to 1 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).

To straighten the accounts of the country, the government is also carrying out a major fiscal adjustment, including reduced costs and increased tax revenue.  

Thus, the amount raised during the auction offers only minimal relief for the government in the midst of the acute economic crisis affecting the country, whose GDP will contract by about 3 per cent this year.