Dr. Gonzalez graduated from the Technological University of Panama where she obtained a bachelor's degree in Electromechanical Engineering and has a PhD in Electrical Engineering from Texas A & M University, USA. Since 2011, she has been Assistant Professor at the Department of Electrical Engineering of the Technological University of Panama (UTP), where she is also Director of the SMARTS-E Research Program. Dr. Gonzalez has published multiple articles in indexed journals and has given conferences at the national and regional levels. Her areas of interest include: energy planning, smart cities, sustainable engineering, design and control of electrical machines, power electronics, renewable energy systems and modeling of energy systems.
In addition to her work at the UTP, Dr. Gonzalez is a member of scientific associations such as the Panamanian Association for the Advancement of Science (APANAC), or the IEEE where she is a Senior Member and has volunteered in different high-level positions within the Panama Section. For her work on the IEEE Power and Energy Society and Women in Engineering in Latin America and Panama, she was one of the recipients of the 2016 IEEE MGA Achievement Award and the 2016 IEEE Panama Section’s Manuel Lopez Spla Award. Finally, since 2018, Dr. Gonzalez is Executive Assistant and Representative of the Academia in the Board of Directors of The World Energy Council’s Panama Chapter.
Energy in Panama
Comparing the results of 2019 and 2020, Panama’s Critical Uncertainties continue to be dominated by the LNG market, but indicates growing attention to sustainability and innovation issues. The Action Priorities section is led by Renewables and continues to be driven by decarbonisation and digitalisation trends.
LNG remains a Critical Uncertainty. In October 2019, AES initiated commercial operations of the liquefied natural gas hub at the AES Colón plant. The LNG storage facility and combined cycle power plant is expected to position Panama as the natural gas hub for the Central American region. At the same time, the construction of two major LNG power plants with a combined installed power capacity of approximately 1000MW has experienced significant delays. This has put supply contracts on hold, causing uncertainties in the electricity market. In this scenario, no medium and long-term PPAs can be offered as this would lead to an over-contracting of electricity supply.
Commodity Prices emerge with the highest level of uncertainty, reflecting the impact on electricity prices caused by delays in the construction of two LNG power plants and the above-mentioned consequences which are indirectly related to delays.
Sustainable Cities rise in uncertainty with the country’s capital as the focus of attention. Panama City hosts 46% of Panama’s population but it occupies only 4% of the territory. High population density and a lack of planned urban growth highlight the importance of sustainability for the city’s energy agenda. Recent strategies to address the issue include an electric mobility strategy with UN Environment and EU support to reduce pollution.
Renewable Energies are seen with lower uncertainty. Today Panama relies heavily on fossil fuels, which historically have accounted for about two-thirds of total primary energy supply. Until recently, the national transport sector was almost entirely dependent on oil and petroleum products. Panama’s National Energy Plan 2015- 2050 aims for renewables to make up 70% of its energy supply. Challenges revolve around the current power market model, which favours conventional fuel sources.
Energy Efficiency remains an Action Priority with higher impact. Multiple policies on energy efficiency are being implemented, such as the Sustainable Building Regulation that was put in effect in July 2019. The Panamanian energy efficiency technical standards and labelling for A/C, fridges and motors will start to be enforced from January 1, 2020.
Digitalisation enters the Actions space, reflecting perceptions around a recent re-focus of the country’s approach to technology development proposed by the new administration. The government defines energy as one of the target areas for a technology review. The state-owned transmission company ETESA leads the way, having incorporated intelligent tools such as drones with advanced data and image processing software to improve network stability.
Panama is an emerging country characterised by its economic growth, which is still recognized as one of the best of the Latin American region. Nevertheless, Panama is still affected by corruption and the lack of government transparency, although efforts are underway to amend this by digitalising government processes.
Panama seems to be adapting to global trends, including the introduction of technologies such as LNG, renewable energies, and the inclusion of innovative transportation and energy efficiency systems. The challenge lies in how to achieve a fair but competitive market for the conventional technologies and the new ones.