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Clean Mining and Energy

16:13 9 de January de 2022 By Daniel Oiticica

Daniel Álvarez, president of the Hydroelectric Executive Commission of the Lempa River (CEL)

Daniel Alvarez: “Everyone has the same opportunity to invest in El Salvador under the same conditions”. Photo: Fabio Lima.

Bitcoin mining is just one of El Salvador’s projects in the energy field. The main objective is to guarantee clean energy supply, taking advantage of the country’s natural resources. In this interview, Daniel Álvarez talks about the mining process, projects, and opportunities in the energy sector.

What are El Salvador’s energy goals?
El Salvador’s biggest challenge is to migrate to clean energy, and that is why we are part of Irena (International Renewable Energy Agency). El Salvador has hydroelectric plants that today generate approximately 25% of the country’s energy. Additionally, we own geothermal energy, a resource that very few countries have. Our energy matrix depends 25% on geothermal energy. And the Government’s vision in the short, medium, and long term is to encourage this type of energy. At this moment, we are finishing the 3 de Febrero Hydroelectric Power Plant, a historical debt of the country, which will add 66 megawatts of clean energy power to El Salvador. We are privileged. We have geothermal, hydroelectric, wind, solar radiation, and we are going to promote all of this.

What clean energy projects are currently in course?
We already have the first wind energy project that is injecting its tests into the national grid. This is a private project that we encouraged and that made a lot of progress during the pandemic. The Ventus wind farm has an installed capacity of 54 megawatts and consists of 15 Vestas V136-3.6 turbines. This operation will prevent the emission of approximately 200,000 tons of CO2 per year. We are already planning the expansion of wind energy supply with private and public capital.

What is being done within the legal framework to stimulate investments?
We are strengthening CEL as a state-owned generator and transmitter, providing peace of mind and legal security to future investors through the Legislative Assembly. One of the objectives is also to reduce the cost of energy, and for this we need to produce more megawatts. We want to stop importing energy, to be self-sustainable, and this will frame the changes within the Law, both CEL’s and the General Electricity Law. We are also working on the creation of an energy governing body, following IRENA’s recommendations and with the support of the World Bank.

How did the bitcoin issue enter the energy agenda?
We are the first country in the world to adopt bitcoin as legal currency. And one of the discussions on the subject is that producing bitcoin is a highly polluting process. But El Salvador has an important source of clean energy, which is geothermal energy. So the decision was to produce bitcoin with this clean energy. And the development of geothermal energy to produce bitcoins will also provide energy to everything around, generating sources of jobs and investments.

The process has already begun….
At the Berlin plant, the bitcoin mining process is already underway. In the last two years we managed to generate 7 additional megawatts in the plant, and we took 1.5 megawatts to make the first mining test. Proudly, we have already mined our first bitcoin, and today we have 360 machines mining bitcoin 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This is the first step and there is much more to come.

How many more megawatts do you plan to produce and how long will it take to be up and running?
We have 95 megawatts that have already been identified and we are looking at how we will build these plants. The projected timeframe is three years. We are going to open two new plants, one in Chinameca and the other in San Vicente, to make the ones we already have in Berlin and Ahuachapán grow even more.

What can private investors expect from El Salvador’s energy sector?
To have clear rules and predictability from the beginning. Everyone has the same opportunity to invest in El Salvador under the same conditions. We understand that investments in the energy field are long term, so regardless of the government, investments are safe and protected by law. The State does not have enough capacity to carry out all the projects needed for economic growth. That is where the private hand is needed. Our doors are open to all those who want to work seriously to make El Salvador’s energy business grow.