Legal Threat to Geothermal Energy in Costa Rica

A bill to authorize geothermal exploitation in an area which has been declared a national park should include reform of several other laws which currently prevent such activity.

Friday, April 26, 2013

So warned Jorge Cabrera, an expert in environmental law, during the debate entitled "Scope for reform to generate geothermal energy in national parks," organized by

This bill seeks to authorize the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE) to use a section of the National Park Rincon de la Vieja, in order to extract energy and produce electricity. According to Teofilo de la Torre, president of ICE, what would be used is between 5 and 10 square miles of the 140 square kilometers of the park.

Although this is a small portion of land, Cabrera said the deputies should ensure that the project is legally feasible."For that, you cant rub against a lot of laws and conventions, such as the Environmental Law, the Law Creating the National Park Service, the Law on Biovdivesity and the UNESCO Convention on Natural and Cultural Heritage", reported

"As it stands at the moment, any one of these could bring it down. You have to correct the gaps and have a consensus to approve it," said the deputy Claudio Monge.

Cabrera suggested, in order to avoid these complications, changes should be made in the uses of the protected area, instead of attempting to not affect it at all.

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Geothermal Energy and National Parks

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Finally, the Congress in Costa Rica will discuss a bill that proposes the exploration and exploitation of geothermal energy in national park lands.

Studies carried out by the Costa Rican Institute of Electricity (ICE) estimate potential geothermal energy generation in the country at 875 MW, where current installed capacity is 195 MW.

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A leading figure in the ruling party has introduced a bill that would allow state electricity company to produce geothermal energy in national parks or protected areas.

According to the deputy Otton Solis, member of the Citizen Action Party and sponsor of the bill, "... in the national parks there is a potential of about 350 megawatts of geothermal energy that can be harnessed, under highly rigorous environmental requirements."

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Costa Rica's state run power company is urging Congress to lift some of the restrictions on the exploitation of underground heat sources in places that have been declared as protected areas.

According to the president of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE), Teofilo de la Torre, it is important that this bill be received as soon as possible, "national parks have restricted uses and extracting steam from the land for geothermal use is one of them, the 'Rincon de la Vieja' volcano has great characteristics for steam extraction. If we know that there is a high possibility of increasing clean energy we have to try it. "

Costa Rica: Push for Geothermal Energy Projects

May 2011

The increasing energy demand and the slow progress of Electricity Act are driving the Government to promote the use of geothermal energy.

The projects promoted by the government would allow geothermal exploitation in the protected areas of Rincón de la Vieja and Tenorio. Studies conducted by the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE) estimated generation of up to 137MW in Rincon de la Vieja and about 100MW in Tenorio.