María M. Vanegas was born in Managua, Nicaragua in 1987. Studied Industrial Engineering at Universidad Centroamericana in her home country between 2005 and 2010. She started an internship at an affiliate of Exxonmobil in 2008 and then was hired in the same company as part of the Maintenance Planning team. Later on she was promoted as Maintenance and Project Engineer where she developed projects with focus on energy savings and environmental impact.
In 2012 she was awarded a scholarship from DAAD and joined the “Energy and Environmental Management” Master Program in the University of Flensburg, Germany. As part of this program, she spent 6 weeks in the Highlands of Scotland working with the inhabitants of Applecross in cooperation with Community Energy Scotland to identify energy saving opportunities in this community. For her master thesis, she assessed the use of fuels in the Transport Sector in Nicaragua and sought to promote the use of domestically produced biofuels concluding that this sector does have opportunities and resources to introduce domestically produced biofuels into its current energy mix that are environmentally and economically sustainable meeting the regional goals and moreover to become energy independent.
Through a doctoral scholarship from the Reiner Lemoine-Stiftung, María started in 2014 her doctoral research at the Interdisciplinary institute for Environmental-, Social- and Human in the Europa University of Flensburg about the self-proposed project as outlined below.
“Seeking a more environmentally sound Nicaragua by 2035: promoting Renewable Energies and assessing their environmental, economic and social impact in the country”
The promotion of renewable energies has been related to GDP growth in low income countries, with the reduction of GHG emissions, the creation of jobs and more recently with a possible “resource curse”. Nicaragua, with one of the smallest and yet most dynamic economies in Latin America, relies heavily on oil derivatives and imports all of its oil requirements. The country could potentially enhance its development through the integration of renewable alternatives to its energy system since there is potential of producing 18.725 GWh from sources such as hydro, wind, geothermal and biomass as long as the associated risks of this integration are adequately managed.
The deployment of RE technologies in Nicaragua would not have only economic impacts but social and environmental as well. Thus, an assessment of the sustainability of such alternative technologies is a tool to measure its feasibility respecting cost-effectiveness, preservation of the environment and the achievement of social goals.
This study will describe the current energy situation in the country reviewing governmental plans, independent studies from diverse NGO’s and the corresponding legal framework while assessing its sustainability. Using the experiences of similar countries and pioneer countries in sustainable energy, the most feasible technology alternatives will be chosen and compared creating different energy scenarios for Nicaragua within the boundaries of an energy model.
The results of such study could be used by governments, universities, the population and/or other stakeholders to make informed decisions regarding investments, policies, financial incentives, among others.