The Business Year

Sara Salazar

COSTA RICA - Energy & Mining

Oil Change



Sara Salazar is CEO of RECOPE. She has several decades of experience in the energy sector, having held several positions in Costa Rican Institute of Electricity. She holds a civil engineering degree from the University of Costa Rica and an MBA with an emphasis on marketing from Inter-American University of Costa Rica. She also has a diploma in management from INCAE Business School.

TBY talks to Sara Salazar, CEO of RECOPE, on important projects on the books, helping Costa Rica to reduce its carbon footprint, and becoming a more efficient business.

What you seek to accomplish at RECOPE?

I am a civil engineer, and my background is in the electric energy sector. I am also the first female president of RECOPE, which represents a change in vision in and of itself. RECOPE has a strong influence on the Costa Rican economy since it supplies two-thirds of the total energy consumption of our country. Although almost all our electric energy—99%—is generated by renewable energy sources, we have an expensive system to supply fuel because RECOPE does not refine oil. Costa Rica’s non-renewable energy sources, especially those required for the transportation system, are based on fossil fuels. Our national oil system is one of the best in Central America, and we have been working to demonstrate the importance of our role and the quality and performance we offer the country. It would be a great idea to refine oil in Costa Rica; it is the most important challenge for RECOPE. Another important aspect is to change the legislation that limits RECOPE to using only oil derivatives in supplying the country’s energy demand. This means it is impossible to use alternative clean energy sources. In fact, for several years we have submitted to Congress requests to reform the law to achieve this openness in the energy sources used, such as alternative clean energy sources like hydrogen and others.

As a fuel distributor, what specific role does RECOPE play in reducing the national carbon footprint?

New regulations regarding the standard emissions nationally have been achieved. This regulation includes new parameters, specifically for gasoline and diesel. The standard itself is comparable to the Euro 4 standard, which cuts emissions by up to 60%. We also import oil with better quality specifications that generate lower emissions after combustion.

Is there a policy or plan to impose fines or taxes on vehicles that exceed emission standards?

There has been an annual vehicular review in place for many years that requires all vehicles to pass an emission test in order to be able to drive in the country. This is done though a company called Riteve. This company manages the whole emissions and technical revisions in the whole country. On the other hand, RECOPE’s role is to supply high-quality fuel with features that allow the country to reduce its carbon footprint. One of the most important problems we have in the country, regarding carbon footprint, is private vehicles.

How much of your total fuel import volume is used on transportation?

We do have an energetic matrix: 20% electricity, 8% biomass, 5% firewood, 1% coal, and 66% petroleum derivatives. Of the petroleum derivatives, 82% is for transportation, 11% for industrial, and 7% miscellaneous usage. This is the reason Costa Rica is challenged with developing a clean and efficient mass transit system. In addition, the petroleum industry must operate smoothly to facilitate the renewable and clean energy sources industry.

Do you have other objectives for 2018?

We are working on legal reform in order to participate in the market with a renewable energy sources supply. I am focused on improving RECOPE internally as a more efficient business. We have had a collective agreement with our employees since the 1970s, and every year it is re-examined. President Solí­s asked us to check the entire agreement in order to renegotiate the terms. As a result, it was the first time negotiations led to the reduction of the associated costs of this agreement in the last 40 years. It was a responsible negotiation between RECOPE and the union. Former RECOPE administrations were dependent on the union. With this last agreement, the union’s power and influence have been reduced. We have improved the organizational environment, and now RECOPE enjoys strong finance performance. I would like to see RECOPE as a company not governed by fear and supplying alternative energy resources. Importantly, I would like it to be deeply involved in research and development.



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