Energy in the countryside

The main role of rural workers throughout the world has long been the production of food. However, due to a growing concern in supply reliability and low cost - environment friendly energy, such role is currently changing. Farmers will be able to turn into big renewable energy producers soon, being able to meet the growing demands of modern societies.

Jean-Claude Pulfer (*)
In many countries of the so-called first world, farmers do not produce only nourishments any more, now they are also turning their farms in renewable energy generators, installing big wind turbines and growing oily crops for the production of biodiesel. Due to the big increase in the price of conventional energy lately, notably oil and natural gas, renewable energy is an increasingly interesting business. Besides, those developed countries committed themselves through the Kyoto Protocol, which entered into force last year, to reduce their greenhouse emissions in the medium term.

This goal could be achieved not only by substituting conventional energy by renewable one, but also purchasing greenhouse emission reduction certificates in developing countries through clean development mechanisms, established by the Kyoto Protocol.
Paraguay is a big producer of electricity through its two big hydro power plants in Itaipú and Yacyretá. Unfortunately, Paraguay does not enjoy most of the financial benefits it should have due to the unfair treaties that the country signed more than 30 year ago with neighbour countries such as Brazil and Argentina, and also due to the lack of interest interest of the current administration.

However, energy future will no longer depend on big centralized facilities; rather, it will be based on a big amount of small producers spread all over the country. In this sense, there exist great opportunities for Paraguay's farmers, notably in biomass production:
– non edible oily plants for biodiesel production (coconut, tártago, jatropa).
– sugar cane and mandioca production for alcohol production (alconafta).
– energy-driven reforestation (timber, wood chips).
– Biogas production and plant waste through biodigesters.

Organized in companies, small producers could transform the raw materials into tradable energy through small processing plants, which are already available in the market.

Besides bioenergy production, there are further opportunities in solar energy:
– to dry agricultural products (grain, fruits, herbs). An interesting experience is being developed in Caaguazú, with the "Celestina Pérez de Almada" Foundation.
– to heat water for boiling food. A regular practice in the Solar Energy Solar (CEDESOL).
– to produce solar electricity in areas not connected to the grid. Chamacoco Indigenous are already doing it in their pollution-free solar village, which was the first one created in the country.

However the business not only consists of selling energy, but also selling emission reduction certificates, which can generate additional revenues for farmers. In the Environment Secretariat (SEAM) a clean development mechanism office has been created, responsible for these projects in Paraguay. The office receives applications for CDMs, tradable internationally and with a recent increasing trend in prices.

(*)Jean-Claude Pulfer is the solar energy technical Advisor in the "Celestina Pérez de Almada" Foundation. The article has been published in Paraguay's ABC Digital website.

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