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Company Voices: Atlas Renewable Energy, Pan Latin America

08 March 2022 Carlos Barrera, CEO, Atlas Renewable Energy and Michael Harrington, Energy Infrastructure
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Atlas Renewable Energy has grown into one of the most recognised renewable energy companies in the LATAM region. The company has over one GW of early-stage to fully operational projects across Latin America. Atlas Renewable Energy has uncompromisingly adhered to rigorous standards in development, construction and operation of large photovoltaic (PV) projects.

Michael Harrington: Where do you see current and future demand for clean energy in LATAM?

Carlos Barrera: Like many other jurisdictions globally, LATAM is embracing an energy transition agenda. Going forward, we see no new coal, and very little large hydro being built. The majority will be renewable energy and some gas. If you put that into specific metrics, 2021 saw about 16 GW of solar and wind being built. This year has forecasted about 18 GW. We see that trend continuing and likely increasing over the next few years. However, this is only serving today’s level of demand and transition. Once you start seeing electric vehicles proliferate in the region, and industrial processes starting to transition to renewables, we’re going to see demand for clean energy increase exponentially.

WE’RE GOING TO SEE DEMAND FOR CLEAN ENERGY INCREASE EXPONENTIALLY

Michael: How has the pandemic had an impact on demand and operations for Atlas Renewable Energy?

Carlos: The pandemic has seen challenges, losses and sacrifices across many countries for a lot of people. In the context of our industry, the sector has demonstrated itself to be quite resilient. Initially demand for electricity dropped, but returned to pre-pandemic levels relatively quickly. And during this period, what we actually saw was an increase in governments doubling down on an energy transition agenda. The short-term shock was short lived.

With regards to our operations, it was reasonably seamless for us to go remote, in part because we have a fairly decentralised footprint. We took early action to close offices to enable people to operate remotely on a full-time basis. We managed to reach financial closing for one of our projects very early on in the pandemic, and then for three additional projects throughout it. Now, lockdowns did cause disruption and there were unprecedented logistical dislocations. This latter point has resulted in industry wide impact. However, due to early planning, we were not affected nearly as much as many of our competitors.

Michael: What does it mean to be a sustainability leader and what benefits has this brought to Atlas Renewable Energy?

Carlos: We are a business that is accelerating the energy transition. Every incremental investment that we make reduces the production of CO2 by tens of thousands of units. However, our focus on ESG goes beyond the reduction of CO2.

We’re proud to be recognised as a leader in ESG. We are committed to it, due to the conviction that business and society are inseparable. We need to consider the wellbeing of a broader set of stakeholders in decisions that we make and if we don’t, it doesn’t work; decisions will lead to pursuits that are not sustainable.

What is interesting is to describe some of the social programs we’ve carried out. To date, we’ve positively impacted over 35 communities by improving education, ‘building capacity’ and promoting sustainable living. We have trained around 1000 women in the ‘We Are All Part of the Same Energy’ program, to take on high skilled jobs during the construction of renewable energy projects. This has increased the percentage of female participation on our sites from about 2% to over 15%. That’s meaningful and generates real change in the way the industry is looking at gender diversity.

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