Low prices signal the beginning of success in Latin America’s renewable sector
 


September 2020

 

Low prices signal the beginning of success in Latin America’s renewable sector

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Latin America is emerging as a green powerhouse, with some of the strongest renewable capacity growth expected in the coming years. Rystad Energy expects the region’s 49 gigawatts (GWAC) of renewable capacity will skyrocket to 123 GWAC by 2025, with the biggest increases coming from Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Colombia and Argentina. Auctions have been adopted throughout Latin America, giving way for some of the lowest prices and largest projects in the world. 

In terms of renewable energy pipelines, Brazil takes the top spot followed by Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Argentina. All five countries have held renewable energy auctions for years, generating a mammoth 50 GWAC pipeline for Brazil and a pipeline of more than 40 GWAC for Mexico. With prices dropping to the mid-$20’s per megawatt hour (MWh),  and even as low as $18 USD per MWh in Brazil, auctions are likely to move forward in most countries despite pandemic-related delays. However, it should be noted that the future of Mexico’s auction remains unclear after the recent political tumult.

The low prices combined with great land availability have led to increasing competition, giving rise to a wave of mega projects. From 2018 onward, solar PV and wind assets with capacities in the range of 50 MWAC to 300 MWAC have dominated the market. We expect the popularity of mega capacity projects will continue, making up around 70% of wind and solar assets in the region by 2025. At present, the Villanueva PV site in Mexico, which is owned by Enel, is the largest solar farm in the region and boasts an impressive 828 MWAC of capacity. Yet Villanueva will soon be surpassed by Brazil’s 1.3 GWAC solar PV farm in Minas Gerais, owned by Aurora Energias. Brazil is also the home of multiple mega wind complexes, such as the 716 MWAC Ventos de Santa Angela (Lagoa dos Ventos) by Enel, and Engie’s Campo Largo complex, which consists of Campo Largo 1 (326.7 MWAC), Campo Largo 2 (361.2 MWAC) and Umburanas (342.5 MWAC).

The proliferation of mega scale projects, and the relatively consistent auctions with little to no local content requirements, make Latin America a good market for large European developers. The majority of the top 10 companies with the largest renewable capacity in Latin America hail from Europe; Enel, Iberdrola, EDF and Engie especially, which are all among the top five. These companies have dominated auctions in Latin America, especially in Brazil, Mexico and Chile.