The 2nd annual Argentine Renewable Energy Congress (AIREC) took place last week in Buenos Aires. With 800 attendees – up from 500 in 2016 – the conference featured over 100 speakers from Argentina’s renewable energy industry. According to Program Director Rosa Elswood, the conference aims at providing a platform for major players in this rapidly expanding industry in Argentina to come together, network, and create new ideas.
Argentina has fallen behind several other Latin American countries when it comes to green energy, so there is some catching up to do. The country currently receives 2% of its energy from renewable sources, but it has set a goal to increase that number to 20% by 2025. While that would still leave it behind some of its neighbors–Elswood pointed out that Uruguay gets 95% of its energy from renewable sources–it would be a significant step in the right direction.
Among the many takeaways from the conference there were two that stood out: the message conveying that increasing the production of renewable sources in Argentina will benefit producers and consumers alike; and the country’s need to be smart about its strategy, and take its infrastructural limitations into consideration.
Everyday Argentines will benefit from increased dependence on renewable sources. And by benefit, I mean save money. One way this can happen, according to Ventus CEO Juan Pablo Saltre, one of the conference’s speakers, is through a process known as net metering. Residents of Argentina’s windy southern regions who have wind turbines in their landscapes will likely receive a surplus of wind energy (a.k.a it is so windy in southern Argentina that wind turbines may produce more energy than local residents will use annually). If this happens, with net metering, people can sell their surplus energy to other parts of the country for a profit.
Consumers will also save money through lower energy costs. Renewables will be cheaper for companies to produce than some of the fossil fuels that Argentina currently uses, such as oil. Those cuts in production costs will be reflected in lower energy bills for consumers.
Several speakers also emphasized that despite Argentina’s potential to produce renewable energy, it must keep in mind the limits of its transmission infrastructure. All the investment in the world could be thrown into the production of renewable energy in Argentina, but it would be useless without enough transmission lines to carry that energy to power grids around the country.
Chile expanded its capacity for renewable energy production without adequate transmission lines, and experienced a bottleneck that prevented the country from utilizing all of that available energy. Speakers agreed that it’s important that Argentina limits the pace of expanding investment in renewable production capacity so that it does not get too far ahead of the pace of expanding transmission infrastructure.
In addition to creating a networking opportunity and providing information about the growing industry, Elswood drew attention to the need for more women to get involved in the renewable energy field. Talking about the lack of female minds currently working on renewables—surprisingly even less than in STEM fields in general—she expressed her desire to help more women get involved. When recruiting speakers for the conference, she made an effort to find female speakers, and she is proud of the 38 women that she enlisted to speak at the event.