Jennifer Keck

Guest Blogger

Jennifer Keck is a copywriter with a passion for foreign policy. She is particularly interested in US-Latin America relations, with an expertise in Mexico and Argentina. She speaks fluent Spanish and is working on her French. She lives in New York, New York.

Solar Power’s Surprising Win in Chile

Chile, Spain, Dubai, solar energy, renewable energy, climate change

Chile has officially debunked the argument that coal is cheaper than solar.

Solarpack Corp. Technologica, a Spanish developer, won contracts to sell solar power for $29.10 per megawatt-hour at an energy auction in August, the lowest price ever. Not only does this beat out the deal in Dubai from last May, it went for almost half the price of coal at the same event. Chilean solar power is now at one of the lowest rates for any kind of electricity anywhere, according to Solarpack General Director Inigo Malo de Molina.

“Solar energy technology has evolved and proved it is competitive,” Molina told Bloomberg in a telephone interview from Santiago. “Prices for electricity generation have changed drastically in the last years. Solar energy in Chile is now the cheapest in the market.”

From Energy Crisis to Energy Abundance

It’s an amazing turn-around, given the county’s recent energy woes. Just five years ago, Chile’s energy prices were among the highest in Latin America. A few monopolistic utility companies dominated the sector, and Argentina had stopped selling natural gas to its neighbor. Facing the risk of blackouts, the private sector planned to open more coal-burning power plants and build hydroelectric dams that would have flooded Patagonia.

A Model for Climate Change: Guatemala's Agro-Ecological Center

Guatemala, Climate Change, German Society for International Cooperation, Agriculture, Food Security

Plagued by rising temperatures, droughts, and elevated carbon dioxide levels, Central America's agricultural sector hangs in the balance. But the Guatemalan town of San Miguel Chicaj in Baja Verapaz may have the answer to this increasingly worrisome problem. With support from the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), San Miguel Chicaj will soon be home to an agro-ecological center designed to serve as a model of adaption to climate change.

For the past ten years, the state of Baja Verapaz has been part of the 'dry corridor', making it the perfect testing ground for the agro-ecological center's techniques. The center, located in a small forest surrounded by cornfields and nurseries, plans to teach people to adapt crop production to the changing environment.  

"It will strengthen our crops…serve as a space for youth to be trained in agricultural-related activities," the chief counselor of San Miguel Chicaj told El Periodico.

The project, which is in the second phase of the "Adapt" initiative of the GIZ, has been called "innovative" and "a new way to address climate change" by the organization's head of cooperation Thomas Cieslik.

Under construction on municipal land, it will cost around $100,000 USD to complete. GIZ, meanwhile, is providing €10.5 million over six years (2013-2018) to invest in consulting and training. Once open, the center will fund operations by charging schools, universities, and companies for training students and employees.

It won't be ready for about a year-and-a-half, but GIZ is already conducting workshops to teach residents of Baja Verapaz how to reduce their impact on the environment. 

Rio 2016: Olympic Games Trump Human Rights?

2016 Olympics, Brazil, Rio de Janiero, Human Rights, Police Brutality

Ready or not, Rio de Janeiro will host the 2016 Summer Olympics in August.  The Brazilian city, which is set to receive one million visitors,  has long been plagued by violent crime and police brutality—a security risk for both athletes and tourists.  In order to combat these fears, Brazil loaned $895 million to the city to keep the peace. But there is another, often neglected group, that also deserves protection: Rio de Janeiro's residents.

Combined with the numbers on police violence, Brazil's security policy gives NGOs and observers reason to pause.  Police in the state of Rio de Janeiro were responsible for 436 killings in 2014 alone, according to Human Rights Watch. And no fewer than 85,000 security officers will be deployed throughout the games. (Forces include civilian and military police, National Public Security Force soldiers, members of the armed forces,  and privately funded brigades.)

Police Brutality

Brazil's extreme security measures might make visitors feel more at home, but the same can't be said for millions of residents who face high rates of homicides committed by police. These security operations to reduce crime before events such as the World Cup or the Olympics often threaten the local population, according to Amnesty International.