Silvia Alvarado de Córdova has more than 30 years of experience in the energy sector in her country, Guatemala, and in Central America and the Caribbean, holding positions in both the public and private sectors and in international cooperation.
Question: Could you tell us about yourself and your work?
Silvia: I am an independent consultant on regulatory matters and the electricity market in the Central American and Caribbean region. I began my career in the electricity sector in the 1980s performing various professional functions within the Ministry of Energy and Mines of Guatemala. Later, I had the opportunity to serve as Project Manager in the Economic Office of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). At that time, an opportunity arose for me to support the efforts of the Government of Guatemala to reform the electricity and telecommunications sectors, which resulted in the enactment of the General Electricity Law and the Telecommunications Law of 1996. Immediately after, I supported the sales processes of distribution companies, such as Empresa Eléctrica de Guatemala and the companies of the National Electrification Institute. I was also involved in the implementation of the new regulatory framework, including the creation of the independent operator of the system and the electricity market (the Administrator of the AMM Wholesale Market), where I served as the director on the Board.
From 1999 to 2011, I was an advisor of regulatory affairs and project developer for several transnational companies, two of them in North America (Coastal Power and El Paso Corporation) and one in Britain (Globeleq, a company dedicated to electricity investments in emerging markets). In 2012, I was nominated by the wholesale market agents to be appointed by the President of the Republic as one of the three directors of the National Electric Power Commission of Guatemala (CNEE), the regulator of the electricity market.
And finally, after finishing my term at the CNEE, I have dedicated myself to providing independent advisory services to public and private entities on regulatory matters and market intelligence.
Q: What made you want to join Path to 100%?
Silvia: The energy transition process is extremely important for the world economy, but for emerging economies, it represents a great opportunity for development and growth. In that sense, sharing my experience and knowledge on issues that impact the development of renewable technologies is essential to my work as a consultant. For this reason, I was very excited to have been invited to be part of a select group of professionals with valuable experience in the field, since it provides us with a unique platform to advance countries towards electricity markets made of clean and competitive energy.
Q: Describe your passion for renewable energy and how you have put it into practice in Guatemala and Central America.
Silvia: I started my professional career in the energy sector in 1983 as part of the team that was in charge of managing the first public entity dedicated to promoting the use of renewable energy sources within the Ministry of Energy and Mines. At that time, I had the opportunity to travel to Italy to participate in a course designed for specialists in renewable energy. Since then, I have held a lasting conviction about the importance of developing renewable natural resources in a sustainable way and promoting energy competitiveness.
Q: Your career has spanned over 30 years, could you describe some of your notable projects or achievements?
Silvia: Participating in the team that carried out the restructuring and reformation of the Guatemalan electricity sector has been one of the highlights of my professional life. Thanks to this reform, among other achievements, the country managed to increase the coverage of electricity service from 60 percent to more than 90 percent today. Additionally, it is estimated that since the sector was reformed, new investments have been made in the country for almost $10 trillion in private capital, which for a country like Guatemala, this represents a great achievement.
My time with the regulator also allowed me to contribute to the efforts that increased the installed generation capacity to double the maximum demand and diversified the energy matrix by incorporating solar and wind generation, in addition to many new hydroelectric generation and other renewable distributed generation. During this period, several open bidding processes for the purchase of power and energy were carried out, including the first auctions of successive reverse rounds. And in terms of tariffs, the final users of the distribution service were favored with a reduction of up to 50 percent within the area concession of the distributor that serves the central area of the country and also significant discounts in the other service areas.
Q: What do you consider to be one of the main challenges facing Guatemala and Central America on their journey to clean and affordable energy?
Silvia: The economies of the region, like many other developing countries, face significant macroeconomic challenges, including extreme poverty that affects significant segments of the population. In this sense, having competitive energy sources becomes a priority. And when situations like the pandemic arise and when fossil fuel prices are much lower, governments may feel inclined to favor fossil fuel investment and use. This is why it is extremely important to maintain our long-term vision and commitment to renewable energy and strive to achieve our established energy policy goals, where renewable sources will account for 80 percent and even higher in certain cases.
There are also important challenges in terms of social opposition to the development of some technologies, such as hydroelectric power. It is important that the country maintains the legal certainty of its energy investments by communicating that these projects do have high costs and that savings will take time.
Q: Finally, what specific steps can Guatemala and Central America take to help on the path to 100% renewable energy? Or what changes do you see taking place now?
Silvia: Carrying out transparent and competitive bidding processes where long-term contracts are awarded is a valuable tool to promote clean energy investments in our markets.
Regulatory stability also plays an essential role. Regulators should continue to introduce technologies, such as energy storage and the use of other new clean energy resources, so that investors see our region as an attractive and stable investment destination in the long term.
Finally, the integration of the region’s markets under the framework of the Regional Electricity Market and international interconnections represent opportunities for us to advance the development of renewable sources in our markets.
Photo by Jimmy Baum on Unsplash