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PANAMA - Green Economy

Héctor M. Cotes

General Manager, EISA & Ecosolar

Bio

Héctor M. Cotes is an industrial engineer with two master’s degrees: one from INCAE Business School and another from Nova SouthEastern University, Florida. He is the CEO of Electron Investment, S.A (EISA) and Ecosolar. Previously, he served as CFO of Grupo Eleta, and his experience includes the VP of Operations of Profuturo AFPC and several management positions in the Panama Canal. Cotes is currently President of the World Energy Council, Panama Chapter (WEC Panama), and Vice President of the National Committee of INCAE Business School for Panama. He was a past president of the Panamanian Association of Business Executives (APEDE), where he has been active since 2004. In 2018 and 2019, he was recognized as one of the top 75 executive leaders of Panama with the best professional reputation.

"The energy transition for Panama is an important process we need to keep moving forward."
EISA is playing a key role in the country’s energy transition by operating hydropower and solar plants and diversifying its renewable energy options.
What is the role of the private sector in the energy transition and what opportunities has EISA found in Panama’s regulatory framework?

The energy transition for Panama is an important process we need to keep moving forward. From the energy perspective, renewable energy could provide us more independence and security, since in Panama we have plenty of water, solar, and wind as natural resources all year round, and in contrast, we are not producers of fossil fuels such as gas and oil. In times of global uncertainty, the energy transition process enables and prepares our own electric system to be stronger, more self-sufficient, and reliable. We can depend more on ourselves from an energy point of view. As a company and as a country, being green has positive effects, as we need to contribute to the energy transition investing in as many solar plants and renewable energy options as possible. Even though, solar plants at this moment can only provide energy into the system and not capacity yet, we foresee for Panama new projects a mix of solar and gas energy. With the Energy Secretariat as advocate of the energy transition, it is easier for us as private sector to move in that direction. Initiatives as the electric mobility is also a new part of Panama’s energy transition. Still in its early stage, we don’t have enough electric vehicles in operation right now, but that is a part of transitioning the transport component from fossil fuels to greener energy.

How are EISA’s diversification plans progressing so far and what projects are you developing in solar energy?

Since 2014, EISA operates continuously two hydropower plants, Monte Lirio and Pando, and in recent years we have designed, developed, and currently we are operating also several solar plants under the name of Ecosolar. We already have two solar plants in operation since 2021 with three more to come in the next few months. We are confident this is the way to contribute to the country’s energy matrix and many other players are also heading in that direction of investing in solar plants. Utility-scale solar is now a viable option for producing energy in Panama. We expect in the years to come to add batteries to those facilities, which is going to be a game-changer for the energy sector. As a country, these are our next steps to achieve a more complete energy transition. Panama’s energy system would take advantage in the dry season of all these solar plant investments, when even though there is less water, there is usually more sun. In Panama, current matrix, 45% of MW installed are from hydro plants, while solar plants accounted for only 11% for now. Thermal plants are 35% and wind the remaining 9%. As mentioned, we foresee that in the coming years, future investments in the energy sector are going to be either in gas or solar, as we, EISA and Ecosolares, are focused solely on renewable green energy as our preferred niche. In our case, being able to design, develop, operate, and maintain our own plants provide us a unique set of skills and expertise as a team. Owner’s perspective at the moment of designing, developing and choosing suppliers are critical for the long term and life expected from a plant.

Can you elaborate on your social responsibility initiatives?

For EISA, Ecosolares, and our shareholders, ELETA and InverAvante, it has always been of an utmost importance to have a positive and long-lasting impact on our surrounding communities. There are many ongoing programs that we consider key to implement and keep in all the communities around our projects, for example, education-related initiatives. As good neighbors, we are always involved with the community and it is our purpose to always leave a positive footprint.

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