Alejandro Alle is currently a Managing Director at The Network Company in El Salvador with more than 35 years experience in energy. He is a mechanical engineer with a career that started with a specialization in nuclear engineering scholarship at the Argentine National Board of Atomic Energy in 1987. Since then, Alejandro has worked as the General Manager at Puma El Salvador (Trafigura), co-founded Quantum Energy and was Executive Director of Energía del Pacífico.
Question: Please describe yourself and your work.
Alejandro: I am a mechanical engineer with 35 years of experience in the oil and gas, energy and investment banking sectors in Latin America. Born and educated in Argentina, I started my professional career in the Atomic Energy industry in the middle of the 1980s, later transitioning into the engineering and construction industry. In the early 1990s, at the dawn of the privatization of the natural gas business in Argentina, I joined the natural gas industry as a business developer.
In the 2000s, I moved to Central America and worked more than 10 years as the General Manager for Puma El Salvador, a subsidiary of the oil company Trafigura. During the next decade, I co-founded Quantum Energy, a venture capital to develop energy projects in Central America. Quantum was successfully awarded several projects, including Energía del Pacífico (EDP), a 378 megawatt liquefied natural gas (LNG)-to-power mega-project developed together by Quantum and Invenergy (US), the company that became the controlling partner. I served as Executive Director of EDP from inception to final investment decision, which was reached in December 2019 with the signature of four multilateral institutions (IFC, IDB Invest, Finnvera/KfW and DFC). It is the biggest project in the history of El Salvador.
Q: What made you want to join the Path to 100%?
Alejandro: Out of an interest to be forward-thinking and ahead of the curve, particularly regarding issues related to the net-zero economy, renewables, powerfuels (renewable power-to-X via the electrolysis) and the integration of energy sources.
Q: Describe your passion for renewable energy and how you have put it into practice in El Salvador.
Alejandro: At our investment bank, we help investors reach a financial close in their renewable projects. For example, we recently closed a solar PV financing deal and are moving forward with another client on the financing for a hydropower plant. And that is only in El Salvador! In other countries, we are involved in several transactions that include development and financing for our clients on renewable and natural gas projects.
Q: How would you like to see your work implemented on a global scale?
Alejandro: I would like to keep promoting and developing megaprojects, such as the $1 billion LNG-to-Power Energía del Pacífico. On this project, I was involved from its inception up to its successful financial close reached in December 2019.
Q: What do you think are the best areas of opportunity for the renewable energy sector in El Salvador?
Alejandro: The biggest areas of opportunity are in the integration of renewable energy and promotion of powerfuels, along with a deep change in regulation that allows customers to become “prosumers” via a real net-metering/behind the meter approach. Distribution companies should be paid well for the essential service they provide in securing power, but there is no reason for them to make money selling energy – this produces a bad incentive for the market.
Q: Now, what do you consider to be the main barriers or challenges El Salvador faces on its path to clean and affordable energy?
Alejandro: For me, it is the bureaucracy, especially as it almost derailed the aforementioned LNG-to-power project. Other barriers include a lack of understanding of the importance of being an early first mover in renewables and a need for inspiration like Chile and its hydrogen economy focused on exports. Also, El Salvador should pay attention to both large-scale and small renewable projects, not just the most impactful ones.
Q: Finally, how can El Salvador lead the way towards 100 percent renewable energy? And what progress do you foresee for the region in the coming years?
Alejandro: The country should focus on the integration of solar PV and geothermal (a very specific energy that El Salvador has the good luck to count on) to produce powerfuels. El Salvador will soon have natural gas entirely replace oil thermal power, so it is time to use natural gas for other uses, such in transportation and boilers, not only in energy production. We also benefit from the fact that we are a dollarized country with close ties to the United States.
Photo by Enrique Alarcon on Unsplash