NRECA International has been active in cooperative and rural electrification development in Costa Rica since 1963. There are currently four electric cooperatives in Costa Rica representing approximately 15 percent of the total electric distribution market in the country and roughly 40 percent of the rural-area service. The four cooperatives are completely self-sustaining, earn margins on their operations and are continually expanding their scope and range of consumer services into telecommunications and other areas.
In 1989, NRECA International assisted the co-ops in forming a common-services consortium, CONELECTRICAS, which on behalf of its members is involved in power generation investment and operations, strategic services and policy advocacy and various technical services. CONELECTRICAS owns and operates two small hydro plants totaling 43 MW of installed capacity, selling the energy output to the four distribution entities. NRECA International’s assistance included developing the business plan and setting up the organization; carrying out selection, feasibility analysis, and design for small hydro projects ; helping in the capitalization of CONELECTRICAS and co-financing arrangements for its power investment projects ; establishing a related watershed conservation program; developing a bulk material and equipment procurement program; setting up a public information program and helping CONELECTRICAS in its advocacy work.
In 2010, NRECA International assisted CONELECTRICAS and the co-ops in preparing a strategic review and plan to cope with new challenges facing the co-ops in the technical, environmental and legislative arenas. In order to meet coming changes in their operating environment, including proposed legal and regulatory reforms in the country’s wholesale electricity market, the advent of the Central American regional power market, and the government’s bold “zero-emissions” policy on climate change, the co-ops will be working to improve their internal capacities in long-range power supply planning and risk management, electric distribution modernization and automation, capital expansion financing in power supply and other aspects of their business.
NRECA International continues to sponsor several voluntary “sister cooperative” relationships between the co-ops and counterpart cooperatives aimed at supporting the continuing growth and maturity of the Costa Rican electric cooperative industry.
- Initial design and development of a national rural electrification program involving the establishment of four electric co-ops, distribution construction design and capital financing system
- Development of CONELECTRICAS, leading to increased power supply self-sufficiency, technical and management services and technology transfer.
- Organizational review and reform of the former national electric utility regulatory agency, SNE (1994-95), now ARESEP
- Creation of a watershed-rainforest protection program
- Establishment of an on-going “sister co-ops” program with NRECA member electric co-ops