Markets to watch in Central America: Wrap-up of the International PV Trade Mission

The Costa Rican minister of Energy Edgar E. Gutiérrez-Espeleta opening the trade mission in San José

Rotterdam, The Netherlands, November 26, 2014- Energetic, dynamic, innovative, and enlightening; these words represent only a handful of the praise received by Solarplaza’s team from conference attendees, speakers, and partners alike at the end of a highly successful five day trade mission and conference spanning from San Jose, Costa Rica to Panama City.

Reception at the Dutch ambassador's private residence in Panama City

Alejandro Brenes, Country Manager for Enertiva in Costa Rica, attended the trade mission and conference as an esteemed speaker, bringing personal experience and working knowledge of the local markets to the table. Brenes has an impressive solar resume, which made him an asset for the attendees of the PV Trade Mission in Central America. He emphasized the uniqueness of such a trade mission by stating, “Such an event had great influence over key players in Costa Rica and Panama because of the presence of large international players, who were coming to the emerging markets from mature markets and could therefore share their knowledge and expertise.” The caliber of those in attendance was prominently noted in several interviews and survey feedback received in the days following the event.

Financial session at IDB's offices in Panama City

Mr. Brenes, like many of his cohorts, is well versed in the development of the current local markets in Latin America, suggesting that there are many opportunities, as well as potential challenges for the future of solar. “The strongest opportunities in the Central American market depends really on the country,” remarks Brenes. “International players see Central America as a small market, but it is not. Honduras, Guatemala and Panama have stronger markets than Costa Rica, for example. The three have seen a lot of growth in distributed energy in residential and commercial markets, as well as an increase in the use of hybrid systems equally among all three markets, residential, commercial and utility.” Mr. Brenes stressed that Central America has excellent solar resources and competitive prices, but that the challenge for these markets “will largely depend on regulation and how the utility companies intend to handle the ever-increasing use of solar energy.

Adam James (GTM Research) speaking at the 'El Futuro Solar' conference, part of the trade mission

Adam James, a Solar Analyst with GTM Research based in the U.S., was also a key speaker and valuable participant of the conference. Mr. James similarly reflects, “The trade mission gave attendees a realistic idea of what the constraints and opportunities are within the region. Expectations can often be ambitious and not very realistic, and this conference provided us with reasonable expectations [for the market] that are obtainable.

Costa Rica, for example, is tightly regulated by the ICE, and is therefore not likely to find that large scale projects will be a solution in the future. Because ICE has a monopoly on the country, only residential and smaller scale commercial solar projects are feasible, as expansion does not make sense at this time. The market to watch however, according to Mr. Brenes, is the utility market in Honduras. “The country intends to install more than 300 MW in 2015, which is impressive as that is more than all the current PV systems in Central America combined.”

Private meeting with Panamanian Energy Ministry & Energy Utility representatives

Because the idea of solar energy is still fresh in the Central American markets, local banks, governments and off-takers benefitted greatly from the educational formatting of the conference, coupled with the opportunity to converse with some of the global leaders in solar projects and innovation.

Next year, Solarplaza will hold the trade mission and conference again, potentially combining Colombia and Panama with an even larger group of participants. The goal of such an event is to assist with development of the region and offer support to emerging markets in taking the next step, while also educating one another on the success and change that many of the markets will have undergone in the previous year. As both Adam James and Alejandro Brenes similarly expressed, this year’s conference and trade mission was sui generis because it combines everyone and everything together under one roof. If this year’s outcome is any indication, next year’s edition of the Solar PV Trade Mission Central America  is bound to be remarkable.


Photo impression Trade Mission

Video impression Conference


About Solarplaza

Solarplaza organizes international high-level conferences and exploratory trade missions in both established and emerging markets across the globe. With a track-record spanning five continents, twenty-four countries, and thirty-three cities for a total of over sixty events, Solarplaza keeps pushing forward to empower professionals in solar business development.