In 2022, the total electricity consumption in El Salvador stood at close to 150 watts per person. Out of this, clean, low-carbon energy accounted for over two-thirds, or nearly 101 watts per person. Hydropower and geothermal energy combined contributed close to half of the clean energy, while solar added a modest amount, and wind production was negligible. Meanwhile, fossil energy contributed to a little under a quarter of electricity consumption, with gas leading the way, and followed by biofuels. This amount is considerably lower than the global average of 412 watts per person, and such constrained electricity generation could hinder the country's industrial growth and digital economy. Additionally, about 8% of the country's electricity consumption is met through net imports.
Increasing low-carbon electricity generation could address El Salvador's energy shortages while also aligning with global trends toward sustainability. An expansion of the existing solar infrastructure could be an immediate solution, given the technology's increasing affordability and El Salvador's considerable solar potential. However, for a long-term and stable clean energy generation, El Salvador could benefit from learning from successful countries like Sweden, France, and Finland, who have achieved significant nuclear electricity generation per person. While this might seem a daunting prospect, given the technological and regulatory challenges, looking at countries with similar characteristics to El Salvador, such as Uruguay and Costa Rica, suggests that significant strides in clean energy, including wind, can be made with national commitment and appropriate policy frameworks.
Looking back at El Salvador's history, the country has made notable strides in low-carbon electricity, particularly around hydroelectric power. Hydroelectric production has shown a net increase since the late 1970s, with periods of growth and reduction. The largest surge in hydroelectric production happened in the first years of the 21st century, primarily in 2010, with an increase in electricity generation by 0.6 terawatt-hours. Moreover, there has been a recent diversification towards solar power by 2020, adding further to low-carbon electricity output in the country. Critically, there have been no instances of declines in non-fossil fuel electricity generation in recent history, indicating a consistent focus on clean energy strategies. Nonetheless, scaling this up further and diversifying into other forms of low-carbon energy, notably nuclear, could present an opportunity for El Salvador to meet its growing energy needs and contribute to global climate solutions.