Renewable energies are becoming more popular in emerging markets due to the high prices for more traditional fuels.

Antonio Quintero
Green Energy de Panamá
Hiroki Kaji
Panasonic Latin America

What opportunities would you say the renewable energy sector offers for foreign investment?

ANTONIO QUINTERO Panama has seen a swift turnaround. Firstly, to underpin the sector numerous tax policies were implemented in previous periods to stimulate its emergence. For example, tariffs were eliminated for commercialization and importing, and many laws and regulations have been created that have benefited sector players immensely. Today, Panama has a much more solid base for investment. There are good perspectives; we observe larger growth rates in some sectors than Panama itself has seen in recent years of 7% to 10%. The information, technology, and suppliers are there; now is the moment for Panama to embrace renewable energy systems.

HIROKI KAJI The solar panel business began in Europe underpinned by government incentives. However, with the financial crisis, it shifted significantly to Japan. Following the tsunami and question marks over nuclear power generation, the government incentivized solar power, which today has become a hot proposition in Japan. Meanwhile, in Central America there are great advantages for solar power, namely strong solar radiation, which translates into lower cost. Also, Latin America is growing and consuming electricity more quickly because of social development and rising income levels. Many countries in Latin America lack the resources to cover this rapid growth in energy consumption. For example, hydroelectric energy in Panama is dependent on rain that occasionally does not come, which negatively impacts energy production. Such factors, and declining prices for related technology, are contributing to the rapid growth of the solar panel business in Latin America. So we see real potential not only in Panama, but also in Central America. While Panama is getting prepared in terms of public infrastructure, there are encouraging developments, as the government recently approved 500-kW private sector solar generation projects, whereby an individual or private company can obtain approval to generate this amount for personal consumption.

What are the priorities and investment plans of Green Energy Panama in 2014 and 2015?

AQ We have offices in Panama, but are also set to develop a technical and commercial office in the country. That is our main goal for 2014, as it will allow us to provide adequate logistics for national projects. Despite the fact that the country is small, we have to maintain an adequate logistics infrastructure for such systems, as installations are often carried out in areas that are difficult to access. The new office will ultimately create links with our neighbors in Central America, specifically Nicaragua and Costa Rica, toward the beginning of 2015.

Panasonic has developed air-conditioning technology that allows an energy saving of around 50%. What similar applications has such technology enabled?

HK This technology also applies to the automobile and avionics industries. Our company is dedicated to sustainability and addressing crucial issues impacting the natural environment, such as global warming and inefficient consumption. Panasonic, which also manages Sanyo, has leading-edge energy storage devices using lithium ion batteries and solar panel technology. Panasonic formerly had a separate operation in the housing business, but we unified both operations to pursue the market leadership.

To what extent can renewables address Panama's national energy crisis?

AQ Renewable energy has been considered as a potential solution for our energy issues for some time now. In recent years during the summer months, we have been experiencing droughts, and hydroelectric power stations have been experiencing problems. A goal has been set to arrive at a working solution by 2018. Renewable energy could certainly provide much of the energy requirements of Panama's residential areas.