Ecuador took one giant leap towards a greener future Friday when the Coca Codo Sinclair hydroelectric power plant was officially unveiled before Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“Thanks to the investment made in energy generation made in the last 10 years, with immense cooperation from China, Ecuador now counts on 85 percent renewable energy and in 2017 we will have more than 90 percent, one of the highest percentages on the planet,” said President Correa in a speech from Quito to commemorate the occasion.
The power plant has eight turbines and a generating capacity of 1,500 megawatts, enough to alone produce enough electricity to satisfy all household demand in the country. The plant is the largest infrastructure project in decades and was built with financing from China at a cost of US$2.245 billion.
The Coca Codo Sinclair plant is the largest of eight hydroelectric projects built or under construction throughout Ecuador that aim to provide the country with energy sovereignty. The eight power plants will also eliminate the emission of 6.3 million tons of CO2 emissions a year.
In less than a decade, Ecuador has gone from importing electricity to satisfy internal demand, to exporting electricity to neighboring countries.
“We deliver energy from Coca Codo Sinclair, from the heart of the Amazon, which reaches 16 million Ecuadoreans and our neighboring countries. Ecuador has already changed, it is the Ecuador of a decade of gains and is an energy exporter not only to Colombia but also to the whole region,” said Ecuadorean Vice President Jorge Glas from the site of the plant.
Critics of the government of Rafael Correa have accused him of assuming too much debt to build various projects throughout the country. However, by eliminating the need to import electricity and instead exporting energy, the Ecuadorean government is set to earn millions that can be spent on education, health, and infrastructure.
“There is no country that has emerged from underdevelopment without external financing,” argued Correa.
According to Correa, once all the hydroelectric plants are online Ecuador will save more than a billion dollars a year.
The inauguration of the Coca Codo Sinclair plant formed part of an official state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Ecuador.
The Chinese government also pledged to finance the reconstruction of two hospitals destroyed by a massive earthquake that struck Ecuador in April. Many of the Chinese firms and workers suspended work after the earthquake in order to lend their equipment and expertise to recovery efforts.
“Ecuador and China are separated by a large geographic distance … but are united by strong bonds of friendship and cooperation,” said Correa.