Investor stampede set to transform Argentina’s energy market

It was announced on Friday that Argentina’s auction for wind and solar schemes had attracted 228 bids for 9.4GW of schemes, almost eight times the 1.2GW that the country had budgeted for and 27% of its entire generating capacity. The bidding round was the second to be held this year as part of the government’s RenovAr programme.

Of the bids, 99 were for 5.3GW of solar power, 58 were for 3.8GW of wind, with the remaining 293MW coming from miscellaneous projects such as small hydro and waste-to-energy.

Most of the bidders were domestic firms. A list of the project bid for can be seen here. The government will now pre-qualify the submissions, after which companies will price bids on 23 November.

Marcelo Mindlin, chief executive of Pampa Energia, told the Financial Times last year: "We want to be a key player in renewables. It’s a hot sector." His company was looking to invest about $400m in projects.

Since then, the rush to renewables has intensified. In 2016, two bidding rounds attracted a total of 6GW of projects. The result is likely to be a fall in the cost of the strike price agreed in power purchase agreements, which this year was fixed at $57.04/MWh for solar and $56.25/MWh for wind.

The competition reveals the strength of investor interest in renewables projects, and is one factor pushing the rapid conversion of energy markets.

Argentina, which has a largely liberalised generating sector, began holding auctions for renewable licences last year. President Mauricio Macri said at the time that he hoped to attract $20bn to the sector.  

Earlier this month, work began on the largest solar farm in Latin America. The 300MW Cauchari facility, announced by Macri on 6 October, will be built in the northwestern Jujuy Province. It will be made up of 1.2 million solar panels, and the $511m cost is will be partly paid for using a loan from China’s Export-Import Bank of China.

According to Gerardo Morelos, the governor of Jujuy, the province has a target of supplying 10% of Argentina’s energy from renewable sources by 2028. At present, wind and solar account for about 2% of the country’s generating capacity, with 60% coming from thermal, 33% from hydroelectric and the remainder from nuclear.

The government has set a target of obtaining 20% of its energy from renewable sources by 2025.
Image: A solar panel in Patagonia (Dreamstime)

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