The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE) announced the end of an era by ruling out the construction of more of its own hydroelectric plants; a decision that could lead to a reduction of electricity rates in Costa Rica.

View of part of the Reventazón Hydroelectric plant on September 16, 2016 when it was inaugurated. Its initial cost was US$757 million and ended at US$1.567 bllion (107% difference) which impacted the financial balance of ICE and electricity rates. / Photo: Alonso Tenorio.

The decision was applauded by the industrial sector that has historically criticized ICE for the high cost of its investments and its impact on electricity rates.

Hazel Cepeda Hodgson, ICE general manager, confirmed that the entity does not foresee new own power generation works for at least seven years.

The forecast is that it will be until 2027 when ICE will review if it is necessary to increase the capacity for generation and if so, it will most likely opt for geothermal generation.

“Although ICE will not enter into the construction of new projects in the coming years, the analysis and planning of the energy matrix dictates that by 2027 we review whether we should undertake a new project at the end of the useful life of some of our plants. If so, it would be in geothermal energy where there is great potential,” Cepeda explained in an interview with La Nación on January 23.

When asked if this implied for the ICE to give up new hydro projects, Cepeda replied: “Definitely. What we will work on will be research and development very cautiously in geothermal energy”.

In the country, there is a capacity to develop hydro projects but the majority of rivers are located in indigenous territories or national parks; a circumstance that legally prevents ICE from carrying them out.

For now, the Instituto plans for the year 2034 the possible expansion of six of its own geothermal parks and once in operation, a wind farm of its own (there are another six planned, but with private capital) and two private solar projects.