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Latin America Eyes Volcanoes to Fire Up Clean Development

MEXICO: Mexico and Costa Rica aim to build on their position as Latin America’s leading producers of geothermal power to help meet the challenges they face of curbing planet-warming emissions and making their energy supplies secure.

Latin America relies on hydropower for 55 percent of its total electricity generation, and the burning of fossil fuels for around 40 percent, according to the Inter-American Development Bank.

At present, geothermal makes up only 5 percent of installed power capacity in Central America, according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

But this could change, given growing political interest in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the goal adopted by governments in the new Paris climate change agreement to keep global temperature rise “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times.

The planet’s core heat delivers a clean, limitless and continual supply of energy along a string of mountains and active volcanoes in Latin America. Geothermal power is not vulnerable to the effects of climate change such as worsening droughts, or changes in the surface temperature of the Earth.

Harnessing this energy from deep under their own territories could prove a cost-effective way to power the economies of Mexico and Central American states from a domestic source, experts say.

“One of the main benefits is that countries can … become independent from the fluctuations of foreign markets,” said Emilia Rodríguez, a Costa Rican lawyer specializing in renewables. “It also supplies the cleanest and greenest energy.”

Geothermal has the smallest greenhouse gas footprint per kilowatt of any power generation technology, according to the Geothermal Energy Association, an association of U.S. companies developing geothermal resources worldwide.