"Wind energy in Argentina is a boom, although it does not make it immune to a crisis"

Ben Backwell, CEO of The Global Wind Energy Council.

Ben Backwell, CEO of The Global Wind Energy Council.

British by birth, Ben Backwell It has linked an important part of its history to Argentina and energy. He met the country and chose his political history for his master's degree at the University of London. He witnessed the crisis of 2001 and the corralito, he lived in Parque Patricios and as a good football fan he became passionate about the hurricane. He worked for 15 years as a correspondent, specializing in energy issues in Latin America and later as an analyst and consultant on renewable energy, he is currently the CEO of The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), the camera that represents the major wind energy companies around the world. Before you arrive in the country to participate in the Argentina Wind Powerthat on 6 and 7 September the most remarkable actors of the industry with which they are spoken will be concentrated ambito.com.

Journalist: How much future does wind energy have in Argentina?

Ben Backwell: There are very favorable structural factors. They have one of the best wind sources in the world with enormous potential in different areas: in the south, the coast, in La Rioja, in Catamarca. They also have an industrial tradition and very competitive prices on the world market. They fell to US $ 40 / MWh and may decline slightly, in line with the global trend, although there are limits: wind energy is cheap, but not free. One of the most positive things is the growth of the market for renewable energy (MATER), which I think has surprised both us and the government with the speed with which it has risen. All conditions are fulfilled and Argentina has a structural need for energy.

Question: Why?

BB: Because the generation base is anchored in fossil fuels and it is very old. They are very old plants, many are older than 50 years and will have to be removed, because there is a limit for maintenance. We need to add more energy generation capacity and it must be renewable, more attractive and the fastest available: a wind power installation can be done in just two years. Sustainable energy sources will continue to grow for all this.

Question: At what time are we?

BB: In a very good one. In March 2016 I traveled to Buenos Aires with an international delegation, then we did a seminar and the next year another, and it is impressive how the industrial sector has grown in such a short time. Now there are many construction projects – about 31 according to our latest data – two RenovAr plants in operation, other installations that will be completed quite quickly. Apart from the fear of the economy, it is a moment of boom. Now comes a wave of strong construction, which will cover 2019 and 2020, and there are other projects that still close financially. New transmission networks are also being planned in the context of PPPs (Public Private Participation), ie 3,000 kilometers that help to bridge the bottleneck. It is a moment of great emotion.

Question: Is it possible to create an industry?

BB: Of course there are already two turbine manufacturers – the Danish company Vestas and the German company – Spaans Nordex – who have announced that they will produce in Argentina. Then it will be necessary to see which parts are easier to industrialize: the towers, for example large pieces and relatively easy to manufacture. There is capacity to make electrical components, substations and consolidate a supply chain. It is an industry that creates factories and jobs, first in construction and then with qualified jobs in maintenance, control and control systems.

Question: Who can we watch?

BB: There are different ways to industrialize. Brazil built eight factories, in this sense it was a success, but it was very dependent on government measures, with somewhat artificial conditions, therefore it does not export much. The best example is Denmark, an industrial champion who exports to the whole world, created employment and succeeded in transferring skills from the old energy systems to the new. Germany also, United States, China. Argentina is a medium-sized economy with sufficient market for the production and export of turbines.

Question: How can the crisis have an impact?

BB: When macroeconomic pressures come from Argentina, it's hard to predict the outcome with certainty, but I believe that 70% of the current crisis comes from international issues – the super dollar & # 39; and the pressure on emerging markets in general. Although the pressure on the peso continues to exist in Argentina, there are factors that provide the wind sector with long-term certainty, it is supported by strong political consensus – the renewable energy law received support from all parties – and there is a need for more generation capacity, and wind energy is the cheapest and most efficient way to do this.

Question: And can this affect funding?

BB: The good news is that there is a great diversity and many actors: there is long-term financing from Argentine investors and banks, foreign investors and money from solid multilateral organizations, where there is little more international private funding. That is what country risk and macroeconomic problems affect. But RenovAr's projects around 1 were financed in a situation with a new government and in a completely new regulatory framework. The desertion in the projects is very low and the sector has enough strength, although of course this is not immune to a crisis.

Question: What is the purpose of this Argentine wind energy?

BB: Close. For example, to a company that produces a component for turbines in Buenos Aires, Mendoza or Neuquén with a company that builds a wind farm. Help students who are looking for a new career and need contacts or knowledge. It is a forum to connect the people of the industry, which is essential at the moment: we did it in China, Brazil or South Africa, countries with a large market.

Question: What memories do you have of Argentina?

BB: I follow the energy sector a long time ago and have always thought: when do they switch to wind energy? A country with the best wind in the world that has bought fuel oil from Venezuela of poor quality and at high prices. That is why it makes great sense to profit from clean energy, a national resource that provides local employment.

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