The Business Year


PANAMA - Energy & Mining

Miguel Bolinaga

Country Manager, AES Panama


Miguel Bolinaga started his work in Panama in July 2013, previously holding the position of VP of external relations and electric market at AES El Salvador. Before arriving in El Salvador in 2006, he was manager of marketing and distribution at C.A. La Electricidad de Caracas. He had 16 years of experience in the armed forces of Venezuela prior to his entry into the electric industry. He is a graduate of the Naval School of Venezuela with a degree in administration and logistics. He also holds the degree of systems engineer awarded by the University of the Venezuelan National Armed Forces and a master’s degree in information system development from the Simon Bolivar University in Venezuela.

"AES Colón is the first LNG terminal in the country, with an investment of USD1.15 billion."

Miguel Bolinaga, Country Manager at AES Panama, talks to TBY about LNG and the energy transition in Panama.

How is Panama utilizing its natural gas terminal, and how does it plan to expand its usage?

AES Colón is the first LNG terminal in the country, with an investment of USD1.15 billion. Now, we are investing additional USD120 million to reexport LNG. In 2021, we exported LNG to Ecuador using ISOtanks and, during 2022, we started working with Ecopetrol sending LNG to Colombia using the same multimodal transport. We are also in permanent contact and explore business opportunities with Caribbean islands and Central American countries to send them LNG. Currently, we have the capacity to receive LNG, but during 2023 we will be able to reexport and deliver LNG to vessels. Currently, about more than 14,000 ships pass through the Panama Canal every year, including eight LNG carriers daily. In addition to those LNG carriers, most of the new ships in shipyards will use LNG as a marine fuel. Our vision is that part of those vessels use our terminal when crossing the canal and for refueling LNG. Another objective is to use small-scale LNG carriers to transport gas to other places in the influence area of our terminal., Some LNG carriers sail from the Atlantic to the Pacific, transporting US LNG to Asian countries and returning empty. We would like to reload them with LNG for cooling cryogenic tanks, helping them to increase maritime logistics efficiency and improve the LNG load in liquefaction terminals in the US. 

How does Panama’s current energy matrix contribute to the country’s energy security and resilience?

It is important to mention that Panama’s energy matrix has been changing over the last 10 years. AES Panama has been a fundamental part of the diversification and strengthening of the national energy matrix with the introduction of natural gas as a cleaner and transitional fuel, as well as new renewable energy sources. The current energy matrix is composed of 16% natural gas and it is expected that, by 2024, its participation will increase to approximately 34%, providing energy with low emissions through cleaner means of production than traditional fossil fuels such as diesel and bunker. In addition, the energy mix is currently made up of 7% wind energy and 13% solar energy, and new projects are expected to be incorporated in the near future. AES Panama has four solar plants and will build seven more by 2024. Recently, the region has been impacted by the El Niño phenomenon and countries such as Panama are not receiving the regular amount of hydroelectric inflows. Natural gas is helping the country’s energy resilience in times of scarcity of these resources.

How has the Gatun plant evolved in 2023?

It is doing great. We are small partners of the Gatun plant. Even though we are building the plant, InterEnergy owns 51%, the Panamanian government holds 25%, and AES Corporation holds 24%. Gatun is doing great overall. The first phase of the project already accomplished related to pipelines and gasification infrastructure to provide this 670-MW plant with gas. The contract is for 20 years. Then, we need transmission lines to transport that energy. 65% of the construction of the plant has been completed, and we will inaugurate the plant in 2024 and provide gas for the first time in January 2024.

How is AES indirectly promoting sustainable mobility?

Sustainable mobility is not just about electric vehicles; we also consider mass transit. Future subway expansions will make things more efficient. We are also looking at hydrogen as a solution for the future. Natural gas is an excellent option for transportation, including for cargo and trucks, so we have developed a pilot test with two Hyundai mass transit buses fueled by natural gas. The important thing is that the client is testing us. Experts from the Technological University of Panama are evaluating this pilot project to independently determine the reductions in emissions, noise, and fuel efficiency in the buses that this technology provides. We must take into account that the decarbonization process is aimed at replacing traditional fossil fuels such as diesel in the short term to use natural gas as a cleaner and more environmentally friendly alternative.

What can you tell us about the Panama Innovation Challenge in 2023?

It was an incredible event that was established because we strongly believe in innovation. Today, to be successful, you need to be different and think creatively. It’s not just about having a better fuel or contract, but also having a culture of innovation within the company. We participated in an innovation event organized by the Panama Chamber of Commerce with two projects, one the Innovation Laboratory and the other with the Performance Monitoring Analytics Center (PMAC), winning an important prize, which we invested in the creation of the Innovation Challenge. We invited universities and identified problems that needed to be solved. There were 10 teams, each consisting of four students, and there were three final winners. They really were all winners as we will work on most of the projects submitted. Panama has excellent universities and educational opportunities, although students need more incentives and practical experience with companies.

What projects is the AES Panama Foundation working on this year?

The foundation is always reinventing itself. We are working on many projects, but we always focus on areas of influence close to our operations. We have four basic projects. One is called “Preparing with Energy,” which consists of 80 young people who are learning about electrical issues, English, and values. We did this through a grant we received from the US State Department via the US Embassy in Panama. We also have a youth-focused project called “Leader in Me” by Franklin Covey on the seven characteristics of highly effective leaders. We are conducting this project at a school in Changuinola, and the students are learning about responsibility, organization, order, and more. We also have another project at our Hydrobiological Station in Changuinola to help transport fish from the top of the dam to the bottom and vice versa. We also have rural electrification projects to bring electricity to places like Changuinola and other remote areas in the province of Colon. Another of our projects is “Magical Energy,” which teaches children about saving energy, how to use it correctly, its hazards, where it comes from, and more. This is done through books and an inflatable character, which we want to take to schools and show what AES Panama is doing for sustainable energy and the environment.



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