BUENOS AIRES - The winds
seem to be blowing in favor of alternative energy
in Argentina, a country that, despite holding great
potential for developing clean and increasingly competitive
technology, has resisted doing so.
The Enarsa Group, made
up of the Spanish firms Endesa and Elecnor, announced
in February that they will begin a first phase in
June of a 2.25-billion-dollar, 10-year investment
plan for building ''wind parks'' in the southern region
of Patagonia, where wind forces are double the European
The wind parks are to be
created in the provinces of Chubut, Neuquén and Río
Negro, with an output of 3,000 megawatt hours by 2010.
The current energy production capacity of Argentina
is 15,000 megawatt hours from conventional sources.
Spain, Germany and the
United States are leading the way in the use of wind
technology. In Spain, wind-generated energy makes
up more than 12 percent of the country's total electrical
Argentina, with its naturally
favorable conditions - though lacking government aid
-, is third in Latin America as far as producing this
renewable energy, after Costa Rica and Brazil, two
countries with fewer initial advantages but greater
public sector support.
as far as wind energy surpasses the total consumption
of this country of 37 million people,'' affirms Juan
Carlos Villalonga, head of the energy campaign at
the local office of Greenpeace, the international
Villalonga has worked since
the mid-1990s to convince the Argentine business community
and government that the utilization of wind technology
does not require venture capital because this natural
resource is top quality and production costs are on
Wind energy production,
which grew more than 20 percent a year on average,
was one of the top three rapid-growth economic activities
of the 1990s, pointed out the Greenpeace representative.
The others were the cellular phone and Internet industries.
expressed caution with respect to wind endeavors in
Patagonia in the short term because the economic problems
affecting the country in recent months are not doing
much to appease foreign investors.
A program that Greenpeace
presented three years ago seems to be tailor-made
for the Spanish investment plan. The environmental
organization first of all requested a national law
to stimulate investment in wind energy, then provincial
legislation in line with federal regulations, and
lastly the connection of the national electrical system
with the circuit of wind energy production that is
already operating in the Patagonian provinces.
A law of national scope
was passed in 1998 and enacted in February of this
The electricity network
of the south is isolated and, as such, boosting supply
would not be profitable for investors until it is
incorporated into the national distribution network,
which is fed by conventional sources, like natural
gas-generated or hydroelectric plants.
The wind energy produced
today is destined only for Patagonian cities, meeting
12 to 50 percent of the demand.
Given this situation, Greenpeace
celebrated the official decision to enact the wind
law, which was followed in March by a key announcement.
Argentine President Fernando de la Rúa promised the
southern provinces that the hoped-for connection with
the national system will take place soon.
''The costs of solar energy
are still high, but those of wind energy are close
to the costs of natural gas-produced electricity.
The business community now has the word,'' concluded