Inauguration of our microhydro power plant in Cochico, Argentina

May 10, 2013

In a ceremony attended by close to 200 people, the Global Sustainable Electricity Partnership (GSEP) inaugurated its microhydro power plant in the Argentina Patagonia on May 8. Led by Duke Energy (USA), the project will benefit the approximately 160 residents of the remote village of Cochico, providing them with sustainable electric service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Before 2010 electricity for residential use in Cochico was nonexistent until the introduction of a diesel generator that operated sporadically for no more than 6 hours a day. With the new hydropower plant, Cochico residents’ will see their quality of life substantially improve with a cleaner more dependable energy source. The inaugurated 65 kW run-off river micro-hydropower plant was designed and built on the Alhueco Creek, taking advantage of this natural resource benefit unique to the Coyuco valley where Cochico is located.

At the inauguration ceremony, Jim Rogers, CEO and Chairman of Duke Energy and Chairman of GSEP highlighted that this project is a wonderful example of how the public sector and private business can work together to change lives. This project is replicable, meaning many more people here in Neuquén and in other provinces can enjoy the benefits of electricity. Jorge Sapag, Governor of the Province of Neuquén – home to Cochico – thanked the support from GSEP and its member companies for making this dream a reality and referred to this day as historical. The Ente Provincial de Energía del Neuquén (EPEN), the local utility and distribution company, also addressed the audience. As our main local partner, their support was invaluable in the development of this project.

“Not having electricity was a problem that has been solved. I wasn’t confident this could happen – we waited for such a long time! [Now] the way of living will change…the future is going to be much better” remarked Abelardo, the former president of the Cochico Development Commission.

The Cochico Micro-hydro project is one of the two projects being led by Duke Energy for GSEP in the Patagonia region of Argentina. The replication potential of both projects is high and EPEN is committed to reinvest the generated fuel savings of this project and the second –a wind-diesel hybrid system in Chorriaca– in similar renewable energy projects throughout the Province of Neuquén. By providing a pilot experience, these projects can be the catalyst for change in other isolated communities.