Energy profile: Bolivia
Fuel mix (fossil fuels vs renewables)
Bolivia's overall energy mix is dominated by fossil fuels, with natural gas (50%) and petroleum products (31%) supplying most of the country's energy in 2020.
In 2021, Bolivia's national electricity agency ENDE announced its intention to generate up to 80% of the country's power from renewable sources by 2025. However, as of 2020, nearly two-thirds of Bolivia's electricity was still being generated from fossil fuels (65%), with an additional 29.3% coming from hydro (down from 31.7% in 2019), 2.5% from solar (up from 1.9%), 0.6% from wind, and 2.6% from other renewable sources.
Greenhouse gas emissions
Bolivian government statements attest climate change was triggered by the "failed capitalist system". However, Bolivia's greenhouse gas emissions target has been extensively criticized by local environmental activists who claim the NDC (Nationally Determined Contribution) is not nearly sufficient for protecting the environment of Bolivia. Bolivia saw an astounding increase of 503.48% in greenhouse gas emissions from 102,900 in 2010 to 620,981 in 2011. According to the IEA, Bolivia emitted 21.04 million metric tons of CO2 in 2018, up more than 300% from 1990. Bolivia has not updated its contributions target since October 2015 and as of 2021 they are projected to see an increase in per-capita emissions. Bolivia also states they cannot adequately address climate change without capacity development, technological development, and adequate historical responsibility.
Government agencies & other key players
National energy ministry
The Bolivian energy sector, which is almost completely nationalized, is headed by the MHE (Ministerio de Hidrocarburos del Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia) whose mission, according to their website, is to create policies that promote the integrated development of the energy sector in a manner that is equitable and in harmony with Mother Earth.
MMAyA (Ministerio de Medio Ambiente y Agua) is the national agency responsible for issuing environmental licenses. Bolivia has aimed to simplify their permitting process for new mining projects. The AJAM (Autoridad Jurisdiccional Administrativa Minera) is responsible for permitting and exploration licenses.
The main regulatory bodies in Bolivia are: AE (Authority of Fiscalization and Social Control of Energy), the Vice Ministry of Electricity and Alternative Energy, and the Vice Ministry of High Energy Technologies. The electricity industry in Bolivia is regulated by the Electricity Law 1604 and operational standards proposed by the National Dispatch Committee and then approved by the AE. The mining industry is regulated by the Mining and Metallurgy Law no. 535 of May 2014 that outlines procedures for mining rights, administrative rights, loss of mining rights, and mining taxation. Additionally, any mining projects must also gain approval from environmental bodies in Bolivia. AJAM also plays a role in regulation.
ENDE (Empresa Nacional de Electricidad) is responsible for the execution of electric and energy policies.
National oil company
YPFB (Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales Bolivianos) is the state-owned enterprise in charge of exploration, exploitation, refining, industrialization, distribution, and commercialization of all oil and natural gas products.
As of 2020, Bolivia's installed electrical capacity was 3,712 MW.
The SIN (Sistema Interconectado Nacional) is responsible for the majority of electricity produced in Bolivia while the rest is produced on Aislados (off grid systems). Companies operating on the SIN can only work in one of the electricity fields: generation, transmission, or distribution. TDE (Transportadora de Electricidad) and ISA Bolivia are the main transmission companies working in the SIN. The most important Aislados are SETAR (Servicios Eléctricos Tarija), ENDE (Empresa Nacional de Electricidad), and CRE (Cooperativa Regional de Electricidad). As of 2020, 61% of SIN and 93% of Aislados' electrical capacity is powered by fossil fuels.
In March 2022, Bolivia began exporting electricity to Argentina via the Juana Azurduy de Padilla 132 kV electric transmission line, becoming an electricity exporter for the first time.
Bolivia's PEVD (Programa Electricidad para Vivir con Dignidad) aims to continually increment electricity access in Bolivia until there is universal access. Between 2014 and 2019, 4,300 households were connected to the power grid in Bolivia.
Countrywide, Bolivians consume an annual total of 7.79 bn kWh, a per capita consumption of 676 kWh annually.
Coal in Bolivia
Oil & Natural Gas in Bolivia
Bolivia is the largest producer and exporter of natural gas in South America. The 2016-2020 National Economic and Social Development Plan aimed to develop natural gas activity through exploration, industrialization, and an increase in power generation. However, since 2014 Bolivian gas production has been declining due to mature fields and lack of recent discoveries. Between 2014-2019, natural gas production decreased by approximately 25%. During 2019, Bolivia announced a 30% reduction in gas reserves at the same time it began to experience an extended period of political turmoil leading many countries to shy away from long term contracts.
Bolivia's rising domestic consumption and declining overall gas production will make Bolivian gas exports scarce by 2025.
Imports & source countries
Bolivia has begun to import crude oil due to jumps in demand for fuel within the country. Bolivia imports refined petroleum products from the United States, Chile, and Argentina as well as importing petroleum. However, the import of mineral fuels, including oil, dropped 42% between 2019-2020 likely due to the impacts of COVID-19.
Proposed new sources & projects
The Boycobo Sur X1 hydrocarbons field was discovered in December 2020, with reserves of approximately one trillion cubic feet. By the end of 2021 Bolivia expects the field to enter into production in the Boycobo Sur X1 field.
The Yarara X1 well in Yapacani, Santa Cruz was also discovered in December 2020 with 13.7 million barrels of oil and 76.8 billion cubic feet of natural gas.
New projects in Bolivia are threatened by Brazil and Argentina enhancing their own production.
Bolivia has an extensive network of oil and gas pipelines, including international pipelines facilitating exports to neighboring countries. Bolivia's gas exports to Brazil, primarily through the Gasbol Gas Pipeline, have greatly suffered due to declining production, increased domestic demand, political turmoil and the impact of COVID-19. Bolivia's long-standing contract to supply Brazil with natural gas expired in December 2019, and Brazil's state-owned petroleum company Petrobras has since reduced its commitment to buy Bolivian gas, though private customers in southern Brazil have express interest in taking up the slack. The contract for the Yabog gas pipeline between Bolivia and Argentina expires in 2026 with little likelihood of Argentina continuing the relationship.
Renewable Energy in Bolivia
Bolivia's Supreme Decree 2048 and Plan para el Desarrollo de las Energías Alternativas 2025, both issued in 2014, encourage clean energy development. In 2018, Bolivia had 30 renewable energy projects underway. As of 2021, hydro energy made up the majority of renewable energy generation. In February 2021, Bolivia's largest solar plant, Oruro PV Solar Plant, came online in Ancotanga, Caracollo on the high plateau which now contributes to the SIN.
A 2021 study projected that Bolivia could achieve 2 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2030. In March 2021, the Bolivian government introduced Supreme Decree 4477 which allows owners of small sized, distributed generated renewable energy systems (primarily solar) to sell excess power to the grid.
Bolivia intends to expand their renewable energy sector with new projects but as of November 2021 had released no details.
A lithium extraction pilot plant began operating in December 2021. The Ministry of Hydrocarbons and Energy stated in 2022 that lithium is going to be a pillar of the Bolivian economy in the coming years with approximately 21 million tons of lithium in the Salar de Uyuni. The lithium extraction industry is impacting water supplies, wildlife, and the tourism industry.
Iron & Steel in Bolivia
The steel industry in Bolivia has had several false starts, largely due to environmental concerns. The National Steel Plan established in 2014 focuses on development and investment in the steel industry, along with logistics for exporting products. China invested nearly $400 million in the Bolivian steel industry in 2018. The steel industry creates approximately 4,500 direct and indirect jobs. ESM (Empresa Siderurgica del Mutún) is the state run iron ore and steel making company with notable exports to Argentina and Germany. The El Mutún mine is off of the main power grid and has turned to the localized power solution of gas engines to power equipment.
The Bolivian constitution guarantees respect for Pachamama (Mother Earth). However, resource extraction in Bolivia has been very destructive to the environment, as with the opening of protected territories to oil and gas exploration and exploitation. Mining has been blamed for drought conditions because of the extensive water used by the mining industry; the industry uses daily what the entire capital city of La Paz uses in two days. Ethnic groups in isolated areas are particularly vulnerable to countrywide water scarcity concerns. Exposure to mines also puts communities at risk through contamination of agricultural fields. Conservationists and environmentalists in Bolivia have been growing more active as they try to protect Bolivian land from the harmful impacts of ousted President Evo Morales' legacy.
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