By the Potencia correspondent

 

The Bolivian government is determined to take advantage of its energy wealth and use it to boost the country’s economic growth. This South American nation has ambitious plans to export surplus electricity to its neighbours, but is its transmission infrastructure up to the job?

The answer to that question is unfortunately no, so the government led by Evo Morales need to solve this problem as soon as possible.

Bolivia has plans to collaborate with Argentina in order to drive economic growth and this should be done by selling energy to that country. Both nations cooperate in important projects as Bolivia’s nuclear program with peaceful purposes, El Mundo newspaper reported.

However, the transmission of electric energy on a large scale requires the fast installation of power lines between both countries.

 

Arturo Iporre, general manager of the National Electricity Company (ENDE) said that “additional exports require the construction of transmission lines towards the country where the exports will go”, Bolivian daily La Razon reported.

Iporre’s words were clear and emphasized how important grid infrastructure is to selling energy to neighbouring countries.

The same newspaper announced in April that the plant Termoeléctrica del Sur, located in the municipality of Yacuiba, will allow Bolivia making exports to Argentina before the end of the year.

The best forecasts expect that station to be operating next October and the plant will add 160 MW to the National Interconnected System (SIN).

Minister of Hydrocarbon and Energy Juan Jose Sosa claimed the electricity production in Bolivia currently reaches 1480 MW with a demand of 1200 MW. The surplus, which will be increased once Termoeléctrica del Sur is working in full performance, must be used and the best way to do it is offering it to other countries.

President Morales recently opened the works for Sucre-Padilla transmission line, which will require an investment of $16.7m. That project will make possible taking the electric grid to rural areas, according to a report by Bolivian Information Agency (ABI). The Sucre-Padilla line is an important landmark but just a small step in plans to upgrade the energy infrastructure.

The Chinese news agency Xinhua said that ENDE will invest over $115m within the rest of 2014 to finance 21 energy projects. Among them there are generation, distribution and transmission projects.

ENDE’s web site shows what the main transmission projects planned by the Bolivian government are. One of those plans is the 230 kV Chaco-Tarija line that will transport the energy produced by Termoeléctrica del Sur substation to Tarija substation. The line will reach a length of 146 km.

The Caranavi-Trinidad line will be longer (374 km) and able to transport at up to 115 kV. However, the main line for future exports will probably be Punutuma-Tarija, with 254.6 km and able to transport at 230 kV.

This project is so important because the Tarija province is where 85 per cent of the country’s gas deposits are. Gas plays a key role in Bolivia’s energy production so will do in future exports. Tarija is located close to the border with Argentina, which will make the energy transport to that country easier.

Bolivia is currently one of the poorest countries of South America. The bet for energy production is one of the most reliable ways to push up economy so the government must keep on with the transmission projects.

Sales to Argentina are essential but Bolivia should also try to sell energy to other countries as it shares borders with Chile, Peru, Brazil and Paraguay as well.

Bolivian interests could go further. Peruvian newspaper Gestion recalled that a few weeks ago an electric interconnection agreement was signed by several Andean countries,including Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Bolivia itself.

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