Electrifying the Future: Interview

The Bolivian government has installed a free charging station for electric cars in the city of Oruro. We spoke to Marco Escobar, President of ENDE Corporación, Bolivia’s state-owned electric company, about government plans to promote electric cars with power from renewable sources.

Tell us about this free charging station installed in Oruro.

On Thursday, the anniversary of the department of Oruro, with our brother, President Luis Arce, we inaugurated a recharging point for electric vehicles. All of the electricity is free. Our government’s policy is aimed at encouraging the use of electric cars and thereby contributing to helping the environment through energy efficiency. The government is also rolling out tax incentives for Bolivian manufacturers who produce electric and hybrid vehicles, both for personal use and for use in agriculture. 

There are also new low-interest loans for those who want to buy electric vehicles. That credit is available until July of this year, so we must hurry to take advantage of these incentives that will allow us to also reactivate the economy. We had a great day in Oruro unveiling this package of support for the electric vehicle industry. It’s a huge step towards modernizing the city. 

Elon Musk’s Tesla is currently the world’s most important producer of electric cars, can Bolivia enter this market on its own terms? 

Absolutely, there is already one Bolivian company, Quantum, in the city of Cochabamba, that is producing electric vehicles for the general market, and you can see their cars about on the road. They’ll be working with our state lithium company YLB to produce lithium batteries for the Bolivian-made cars that Quantum is producing.

The market potential is huge, not just within Bolivia but also for export. In Europe for example, governments want to transition away from using fossil fuels in vehicles. The market here is not only for personal cars, but also in public transport, trucking, and agriculture. That’s the challenge we have to be able to meet, this is what these measures are aimed at doing. 

Is the state electrical company ready to deal with the surge in demand that will come with a transition to electric vehicles? 

We are. We have planned for this, we have planned for the day when we produce the energy not just for this project but for the wider industrialization of the country as we reduce our use of fossil fuels. Generating electricity from renewable sources is an important part of this plan. 

Tell me about ENDE’s vision for renewables .

Following the policy set out by our government, we are diversifying the energy infrastructure of the country. We aim to reduce the use of our fossil fuels like natural gas, and move towards renewable sources: sun, wind, water and heat can generate electricity for us. We have been reactivating the public investments in renewable energy projects because all the funding for this was cut during the coup. One of these projects include the solar panel farm in Oruro, which our President inaugurated in the Altiplano, precisely on the anniversary of Oruro last year. This past year we have also inaugurated wind farms in the department of Santa Cruz, three wind farms, one in the town of San Julián, another in El Dorado, and another in Warnes. These are contributing 108 megawatts to the national grid, the solar farm in Oruro is contributing 100 megawatts. This is how we are strengthening the electrical system in Bolivia, by expanding these renewable and clean energy projects.

We will soon be producing a surplus of electricity, which will allow us to export to our neighboring countries, in fact, we have already re-activated the construction of our transmission line to Argentina, which was another project that got scrapped in 2020 by the coup. This project is nearly finished, it’s about 98% complete, and so we will soon be inaugurating it and exporting our first surplus megawatts to Argentina. We want to see Bolivian electricity being integrated into the grids of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Peru, and so forth.

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