SAN JOSE, March 19 (Reuters) - Costa Rica will lower its electricity rates an average of 12 percent from April because it has met demand this year almost entirely with renewable energy, the state utilities regulator said on Thursday.
A total of 1.5 million households and businesses in the Central American country will receive discounts of between 7 and 15 percent in their power bills next quarter, depending on the company they use.
The measure may offer some relief for Costa Rican business owners, who have long warned that electricity prices put the country's competitiveness and domestic consumption at risk.
The price reduction is due to the fact that thermal power generation was "nearly nil" in the past couple of months, the regulator said in a statement.
The Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE), a state-run energy firm, predicted that thermal generation could drop to 7 percent of total electricity generation this year, from 12 percent last year, saving nearly $40 million.
Strong rainfall in January and February in the country of some 4.8 million people enabled hydroelectric power plants to run at full capacity, and Costa Rica did not have to burn a single liter of fuel to produce electricity, ICE said. (Reporting by Enrique Pretel; Editing by Bernard Orr)