Contract signed for massive solar power generation plant in Manabí Province; Citizen anti-crime brigades to reactivate; Digital cedulas coming soon
The government announced last week that it has signed a contract with the Spanish consortium Solarpackteam to build a large photovoltaic project on the site of the failed Pacific Refinery project in Manabí Province.
According to the preliminary design, the plant will have the capacity to generate 200 MW of electricity and can be expanded to generate an additional 100 to 150 MW. It will also have space to install wind-generation equipment at a later date.
Called the El Aromo project, the solar farm will be a public-private partnership, allowing the government to participate in final design plans, according to Energy Minister Xavier Vera Grunauer. “We began negotiations with Solarpackteam and other alternative energy contractors in 2019 with the idea that the Ministry of Energy would have central role in the decision-making process,” he said. “The government is making a large investment with the infrastructure already on the site and we need to make certain the project fulfills critical public needs.”
According to Grunauer, Solarpackteam has a “proven track record” of success in solar and wind power generation in Europe. “One of the reasons it took three years to sign a contract is that we insisted on an extensive pre-qualification process for the bidders,” he said. “We learned an expensive and painful lesson with the failure of the Pacific Refinery and we do not want a repeat of this.”
The refinery project, a joint project between Ecuador and Venezuela, was cancelled following the 2014 collapse of world oil prices and political instability in Venezuela. Ecuador had invested almost $2 billion in the refinery when work was halted.
Citizen anti-crime brigades urged
Cuenca neighborhoods need to organize themselves to combat a rising tide of robberies. That’s the advice of Abel Buestán, past president of the Neighborhood Security Brigades in Azuay Province. “Businesses have been the biggest target of criminal activity but there has also been an increase in home burglaries over the past three years,” he says.
Although Buestán applauds the addition of more police and nighttime patrols in Cuenca, he says it is up to residents to join the fight against crime. “The police need help and I think it is up to neighbors to protect their own streets since they are the ones who are directly affected by crime. This is an issue of co-responsibility that everyone should be involved in.”
Buestán says crime brigades were effective in the past and can be again. “Several years ago, when crime was higher than it is today, there were 50 brigades in Cuenca. Today, there are less than 10. We need to reorganize these,” he says.
Patricio Zambrano, who directed a neighborhood brigade in the Yanuncay barrio until 2019, agrees with Buestán. “We need to reactivate to protect ourselves,” he says. “It is also important, however, to understand that the brigades must be well organized and follow a plan that cooperates with police. They cannot be guided by emotion and anger.”
Digital cedulas coming soon
Telecommunications Minister Vianna Maino said Friday that Ecuadorians will soon have digital cedulas. “This will be something you can carry on your phone that is available for scanning,” she said. “Once the plan becomes operational, having the digital version will be mandatory for all residents.”
Maino said that the schedule for the digital cedula will be announced in the coming weeks. “We are still working out the details but these will be posted on the Gob Ec app when they are complete,” she said. “The advantage of the digital cedula is that it provides a level of security for your identity not available with the hard copy. It cannot be lost or stolen, so there will not be the inconvenience of applying for a replacement.”