MONTEVIDEO – Uruguayan physicist Ramon Mendez, listed by Fortune magazine along with Pope Francis among 50 world leaders this year, said in an interview with EFE that the honor was recognition of “collective efforts” in his country to develop renewable energy sources.
“It was completely unexpected, although we knew there has been increasing international interest in what we are doing about energy in Uruguay, but I never expected to be on a list of this kind,” Mendez, director of the Housing and Environment Ministry’s Climate Change Office, said.
“I never imagined I would be on the list of the 50 most influential people in the world,” Mendez said.
The official said he did not view the honor as “something personal, but rather collective,” adding that “there are many people behind every effort” in the South American country to develop renewable energy sources.
Over two years, more than $2 billion was invested to reach the point where almost all the electricity in Uruguay comes from a combination of wind, solar and biomass power plants complemented by traditional hydropower, Mendez, who holds a doctorate in physics, said.
“Since President Tabare Vazquez’s first term (2005-2010), we have developed a very important team effort in the country with a novel policy that yielded results in the relatively short term and produced an important transformation,” Mendez said.
The introduction of several types of energy sources “shattered several myths” that existed when the projects started, among them the idea “that it was not possible to generate a high percentage of energy from renewable sources beyond hydro energy,” Mendez said.
“We built some segments where it was possible to combine different types of renewable energy sources to reach almost 100 percent. In fact, during parts of the daytime, 100 percent of the energy in Uruguay comes from that combination of renewable sources. In addition, we are exporting surplus energy to our neighbors, who are much bigger than us,” Mendez said.