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Peruvian President Ollanta Humala: Promises Cheap Gas as the Country Tries to Push for Renewable Energy

First Posted: Jun 15, 2014 06:20 PM EDT

Peru continues to exploit its large natural gas reserves in an attempt to lower energy prices for its people. In recent years the government has expanded the natural gas industry, which has led to a greater use by many around the nation.

President Ollanta Humala announced the inauguration of a new pipeline that puts all those goals into play. Fulfilling a campaign promise made in 2011, the new pipeline will bring affordable gas to parts of southern Ica.

The natural gas pipeline built by the Peruvian company Contugas cost $345 million and will bring the natural gas from the Camisea reserves in Cuzco to the coastal province of Ica, according to Andina. Within its first year of operations, the pipeline will provide gas to 31,000 households.

"This is the start of ... cheap gas. The gas that enters homes will cost 14 soles ($5) a month. It's the start of our cheap gas proposal," Humala said on the day of the inauguration, June 6.

However, cheap gas comes at a price and it is being paid by Peru's ecosystem, particularly the Amazon forest. According to researchers, Peru's rainforest regions have been heavily polluted by gas and oil projects that have been laxly regulated. Many people have reported getting sick, which can be attributed to drinking or using contaminated river water or consuming polluted plants.

Researchers found that in the past 30 years pollution has gravely affected the area's ecosystem and the 4,480 samples collected from 10 rivers from 1983 to 2013 show how dire the situation is. Over 70 percent of river water samples exceed Peru's limits for lead and 20 percent exceed cadmium limits, according to LiveScience.

However, there have also been strides to use renewable energy sources, particularly solar energy. A joint venture by Spanish company Inducore Technologies and the Peruvian company Fotovotaicas del Peru will begin a project to provide solar energy to 18,000 households in rural areas of the province of Arequipa.

At the cost of 12 million soles, the panels will be working in 12 months, according to Jorge Bernedo Gainza, manager of the joint venture. The plan has already been presented to the Regional Government of Arequipa and following their approval it will be sent to the Ministry of Economy and Finance. The company expects the government to pay for the installations, which they would do in rural households. This would ultimately provide these homes with free electricity.

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