Community Energy Planning in the Alexander Skutch Biological Corridor
The purpose of this major paper is to explore the possibility of developing a community energy project in rural Costa Rica. Two case communities were selected in the Alexander Skutch Biological Corridor: Santa Elena and Quizarra. The paper assessed the current energy policy framework in Costa Rica, and determined whether community energy planning could be a viable option for the communities. An energy assessment of the communities was performed through qualitative and quantitative research methods. Various energy actors in Costa Rica were also interviewed in determining the future of distributed energy generation in the country. The paper used RETScreen as a tool to analyze the financial viability of a solar PV project in the communities. Following the policy and financial assessment, the paper identified the following barriers to the success of community energy in the ASCBC as: the lack of a supporting Feed in Tariff (FIT) policy and incentives for renewable energy development in the country, financial barriers such as limited access to funding and high interest rates on loans, and a lack of institutional support. The paper provides recommendations for advancing community energy in Cost Rica, and alternative methods for lowering electricity consumption, such as energy efficiency and demand management strategies. The paper contributes to an understanding of the energy policy framework in Costa Rica, and the role that distributed energy generation can play. It also provides insight into energy usage and the needs of the ASCBC communities, and highlights the importance of energy education and community engagement.