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Renewable Energy in Bolivia: On the Road to Sustainability

Renewable Energy in BoliviaThe history of renewable energy in Bolivia is not very long, as many of its significant developments unfolded a few years ago. However, that has not stopped the country from achieving important milestones in its transition to renewable energy during the said short period.

Renewable Energy Initiatives

One major breakout for renewable energy in Bolivia was the construction of its first wind power plant in 2014, located in Qollpana, Cochabamba. This was followed by the release of the “Electric Plan of the Plurinational State of Bolivia 2025,” a document explaining the government’s long-term vision of an energy-independent country inclusive of renewable energy sources.

Fast forward to 2022, and the Minister of Hydrocarbons and Energy is reporting a gas use reduction of 50% due to efficient management and increasing use of hydroelectric, wind, solar and biomass energy.

Renewable Energy and Poverty Reduction

The transition to renewable energy in Bolivia carries the potential to advance poverty reduction efforts in the country. It could reduce the energy access breach in Bolivia, with 2.4% of the population lacking access to electricity. This translates to limitations in basic needs such as lighting, cooking and heating. While non-renewable energy could also reduce this energy gap, Bolivia’s Ministry of Hydrocarbons and Energy made it a point to include renewable energy sources in its “To Live with Dignity” electricity program, launched in 2008. This program aims for total accessibility of electricity services in Bolivia.

Renewable energy can also potentially reduce unemployment through the creation of more solar, hydroelectric and wind power plants that need staff to handle operations. It is estimated that 15 million jobs will be created in Latin America by 2030. Moreover, Bolivia has a total of 11 renewable energy projects, each focused on either solar, hydroelectric or wind power.

Efforts to Advance Renewable Energy

Despite the country’s efforts, natural gas still makes up 80.7% of total energy production. Nevertheless, Bolivia is not short on ways to keep pushing toward renewable energy production. For instance, Bolivia is part of RELAC, an alliance between Latin American and Caribbean countries for renewable energy development. One of its aims is for renewable energy to reach 70% of the regional electricity matrix. Aside from its previously mentioned electric plan, there is the “Alternative Energy Development Plan 2025,” a ten-year plan to consolidate renewable-based electric generation.

Bolivia continues to make efforts to upgrade the infrastructure needed for renewable energy production. The National Interconnected System (SIN), which the government has put in place, aims to improve the nation’s capacity for producing electricity by building additional power plants, transmission lines and substations. Additionally, it is anticipated that the SIN will make it easier to integrate renewable energy sources into the national electrical network.

Looking Ahead

Although Bolivia’s journey toward renewable energy is still in its early stages, the nation has made considerable strides in a short amount of time. By transitioning to renewable energy, Bolivia can reduce poverty-related issues such as unemployment and unequal access to energy. Bolivia’s commitment to renewable energy is a welcome step toward a more sustainable and just future for all.

– Luciana Mena
Photo: Flickr