Cooperatives for Generating Renewable Energy

Environment and Renewable Energy in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is internationally recognised as a country with one of the greenest energy matrices. 99.98% of electricity comes from renewable sources, the first source of generation being hydroelectric with more than 73%. The country’s mountainous topography and climate, with almost 7 rainy months a year, contribute to this.

Although in most of the national territory the service is provided by the state electricity giant ICE, there are several peripheral regions (20% of the national territory) where cooperatives generate and distribute electricity and provide telecommunication services. There are four electrification cooperatives, two of which, COOPELESCA and COOPEALFARORUIZ, are located in the region where the DGRV Costa Rica implements the “Redes” project together with its partner, the Unión Nacional de Cooperativas del Norte-URCOZON.

COOPELESCA - Forging the development of the Northern Zone

COOPELESCA, founded in 1965 and with a current associative base of more than 112,000 members, supplies electricity from 100% renewable sources. It also provides info-communications services, and manages a warehouse and a tourism project “Coopelesca Tours”.

Together with the other three electrification cooperatives – COOPESANTOS, COOPEALFARORUIZ, COOPEGUANACASTE – it is part of the Cooperative Consortium CONELECTRICAS, created for the development, defence and integration of the electric cooperatives and together to achieve efficiency and innovation through collaborative actions.

The "Redes" project of DGRV

DGRV’s “Redes” project in northern Costa Rica promotes cooperation between URCOZON’s partner cooperatives and seeks to achieve synergies and economies of scale between them.

COOPELESCA supports and integrates this process. It was also one of the pioneering cooperatives in the country to apply the DGRV tool to measure the contribution of cooperatives to the Sustainable Development Goals. The purpose of the tool is to report on the actions and investment made by the co-operative to achieve these goals. Among the most relevant results, apart from its main line of business, the generation and distribution of renewable energy (SDG 7), the following can be highlighted:

  • SDG 4 (Education): Education programmes, such as on the efficient use of energy, serving almost 4,000 people.
  • SDG 10 (Equality): “Hogares Conectados” (Connected Homes) programme, aimed at families living in poverty and vulnerability, providing subsidies for the payment of internet service and the purchase of computer equipment.
  • SDG 12 (Production and Consumption): They have the “Carbon Neutral Country” programme and provide environmental education programmes, “Coopelesca Generates Wellbeing”.

Like COOPELESCA, other URCOZON member cooperatives are part of the “Networks” programme, and through continuous technical support and trust-building actions, small and medium-sized cooperatives in a wide range of sectors have been able to remain stable, grow and innovate, thus ensuring a better income and employment situation for their members.

The project has been reinforced by the so-called “Business Clinic” which, together with local academia, provides technical support for business strengthening.




URCOZON - Contributing to the development of the Northern Region

URCOZON has been a partner of the DGRV in Costa Rica since 2018. Founded in 1973 and located in the northern region of the country, it has 48 affiliated cooperatives from a variety of productive sectors and of very different sizes. It supports them with technical advice, training, representation and advocacy, as well as support for the formation of new cooperatives. The northern region is the most cooperativised region of the country, 2 out of 5 of its inhabitants are cooperativists.

URCOZON’s structure includes an educational centre for cooperative members and the community in general. It has been supported by the DGRV in the past and its strength is cooperative education. It also encourages and promotes school cooperatives in educational centres in the region: there are currently 60 school cooperatives duly recognised by the Costa Rican Ministry of Public Education.

It is a commitment to the future so that the new generations are awakened to an interest in associativism and to facilitate the generational handover in the membership and elected bodies of the cooperatives.

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