Guatemala: Addressing the Energy Crisis

When discussing the energy crisis in Guatemala and possible solutions, the only source people looked at was oil. Now there are other ways to find alternative sources. The infrastructure and development blog AIDG explains how a community can get cheap access to energy using alternative sources. In 2007, they worked on building infrastructure to help Guatemalans improve their quality of life by testing the use of biogas in a small plant in La Florida, which is a model that they will implemente in Haiti later this year. The blog writes:

The system will safely process waste from the community's pigs into biogas, a fuel that can be used like propane or natural gas, and fertilizer. Processing animal waste in this way will help the community keep untreated manure out of local water sources and provide them with an alternative to firewood. It also helps trap methane, a greenhouse gas that is 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

However, policy-makers in Guatemala are only encouraging the use of another alternative, the mixing of gas with ethanol. Here are some views on the bad impact of this in consumers:

Al utilizar etanol, la dependencia de Estados Unidos y del resto de Occidente sobre el petróleo politizado desde la OPEP y Venezuela estará mucho más limitado. Estados Unidos y su frágil estabilidad macroeconómica dependerá en los próximos 10 años en su capacidad para estabilizar la política internacional y los precios del petróleo a su favor.

With the use of ethanol, the dependence of the United States and the rest of the Western countries on oil, politicized from OPEC and Venezuela will be reduced. The US and their fragile economic stability will depend on their capacity to balance the international policy on oil and their prices the next 10 years..

There is also a blog written by enthusiastic students from Stanford University during their year of service abroad. They are in Guatemala to learn about the coffee industry, called GSBCAFFEINATION, and there they described the amazing labor of Technoserve, a famous NGO that seeks to find solutions with the development of biofuels, as described here:

The biofuel project seems extremely interesting. Theya re helping producers to grow and cultivate jatropha plants, which can be used to make biofuel. My understanding is that there is no demand for biofuel from jatropha plants in Guatemala at the present, nor does there exist the capability to process the plants into biofuel, but Technoserve is hoping it can develop the industry. Very ambitious!

The alternative biofuel market in the region were studied by a team that participated in the Greaseball Challenge 2007, a rally across Central America and part of Mexico using modified cars and filling it with alternative sources of energy.

It was described on one of the driver´s blog:

This audacious 4-wheeled, or any wheeled, grease extravaganza throws down a greasy gauntlet challenging teams to drive 4,500 miles on pure plant power from the US to Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. All that in a car bought for the same price as a packet of Reeses Pieces. We'll be using waste grease from restaurants and fast-food joints, veggie oil fresh from farms, markets or supermarkets, and biodiesel wherever we find it. Nasty old fossil fuels are not allowed (except in emergencies, and there will be lots of those). All cars and funds are donated to benefit environmental projects in the destination countries.

Guatemala gets their energy from dams and oil, however, dams are not necessary the best source because they have led to several social conflicts in the past. Misinformation might be an issue in such matters, as el Blog de Rudel [es] explains:

…. aproximadamente 150 campesinos y sus lideres, realizaron una marcha pacifica en el area central de Petén en contra de la “supuesta” construccion de una represa sobre el Río San Juan en el Municipio de Dolores, Petén. Lamentablemente, como sucede siempre, nuestros compatriotas fueron mal informados y manipulados por fuerzas oscuras, quienes pretenden desestabilizar este recien formado gobierno, ya que tal proyecto no se esta llevando a cabo.

… aproximately 150 peasants and their leaders made a peaceful protest on the central area of Petén, against the “supposed” construction of a dam on the San Juan River, in the region of Dolores, Petén. Sadly, our brothers were misinformed and manipulated by the hidden powers trying to destabilize the new government. The dam project has not even started.

On energy crisis, blame the government, as the blogger of Antigua VIP [es] did, and they argued that the authorities are wrong in deciding to adjust the daylight savings time in order to save energy:

Que mal están las autoridades en querer adelantar la hora, como si esa fuera la solución para la crisis de energía que estamos viviendo, como en el congreso y en las municipalidades es fácil que los altos mandatarios se presenten tarde a trabajar no les importa, pero deberían de pensar en aquellos maestros que tienen que recorrer kilómetros para llegar a las aldeas alejadas, o que piensen en los niños que tienen que salir temprano a estudiar hasta algún municipio porque viven en aldeas marginadas.

It is wrong that the authorities want to adjust the time, as if it is the solution to solve the crisis of energy we are going through. It is easy for the congressmen and the local governors to adjust the time. If they are late to work is not a problem, but they should consider that there are many teachers that have to walk many kilometers to the villages and there are many kids that have to go out early in the morning since they live far in the marginal areas.

As bloggers have noted that if Guatemala can produce energy using wind, water, thermal energy and alternative sources, it is important to see all the possibilities, and consider all the factors such as social impact, environmental impact and not only interests of groups.


  • Marcos Montenegro

    According to a study in March 2007 Guatemala has a virtually untapped wind energy potential of approximately 7,800 MW (it currently uses 0.1% of this capability).

    This study was made by an international firm contracted by the outgoing Berger administration and identified 3 areas in Guatemala where ideal conditions exists for large scale wind productivity. All of these areas have a wind power class rating of 5, which is considered “excellent” resource potential by wind energy standars.

    The Colom government, however, is focusing instead on hydro-electric and carbon technology power plants that not only take much longer to build than wind turbines, but also disrupt the ecosystems that surround them. Guatemala has the most expensive electricity in Central America and is heading for an energy crisis in the coming years if renewable energy is overlooked.


  • Marcos,

    Let’s take some action, then. It is important that people learn more about it,of the comparative advantages of wind mills and other sources such as geotermal energy, or solar energy. The advantage of Guatemala is that the amount of energy required is not that high, we can have cheap energy and even export to third countries.


  • Did you know there’s a biodiesel program in place in La Antigua Guatemala?

    The biodiesel made from recycled burnt oil donated by the restaurants in Antigua and Guatemala City.

    You can find out all about it here:

  • In several US states, home owners and businesses can install wind turbines or solar voltaic panels on their roofs and get a tax credit. They then sell their surplus electricity back to the grid during sunny days of low usage, and buy elctricity at night. This avoids the expense, maintainance and pollution of large storage batteries and inverters. Electric companies are required by law to purchase the power at the highest rate they pay for other electricity producers.
    We have a lot of sun and wind here in Guatemala.

  • Guatemala could be the lowest cost ethanol producer if they build a geothermal still right beside the sugar cane plantations on the Pacific coast.

  • Rachel Page

    When discussing the energy crisis in Guatemala and possible solutions,
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  • Karen Patrick

    When discussing the energy crisis in Guatemala and possible solutions,
    the only source people looked at was oil. Now there are other ways to
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