Latin America Enjoys Abundant Renewable Energy but Lacks Policies for Use

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Jun 182013

South and Central America could generate 100 percent of their electricity with renewable resources, a new study finds

By Lisa Friedman, Climatewire, picked up by Scientific American [here] and others

Latin America and the Caribbean could meet 100 percent of their electricity needs with renewable energy, a new Inter-American Development Bank study finds. From Mexico to Chile, countries already are producing higher levels of clean power, but the study notes the region still has a long way to go. Last year just 5.4 percent of the $244 trillion global renewable energy investment went to Latin America. But with Latin America’s economy expected to grow 3 percent annually, the study argues that the region will need to nearly double its installed power capacity to about 600 gigawatts by 2030 at a likely price tag of $430 billion.

The report, “Rethinking Our Energy Future,” will be released today at a Global Green Growth Forum meeting in Bogota, Colombia. It comes amid growing concern among energy experts that the region is not living up to its clean energy potential. (…)

Last week the Worldwatch Institute think tank in Washington, D.C., unveiled a Central America report also showing the region has the resources and the technical capacity to meet all its electricity needs with renewables. But, it argues, governments are undermining their own investments in geothermal, biomass, wind and solar with plans to increase imports of oil, coal and natural gas.

“Central America is at a crossroads,” Alexander Ochs, director of climate and energy at the Worldwatch Institute, said in the study. According to the study, Latin America currently generates about 7 percent of the world’s total electricity production, but demand is skyrocketing as population levels rise and the region’s economy improves. By midcentury, Latin America’s power demand is expected to triple while carbon emissions from the power sector will double. Continue reading »

Moving Renewable Energy Forward in Nicaragua

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Sep 132012

Adam Dolezal and Alexander Ochs | ReVolt | 13 September 2012

Para una versión en español de este blog, por favor hacer click aquí.

Last week, the Worldwatch Institute’s Central America team – together with our partners from the INCAE Business School – convened a working group of nearly 40 renewable energy experts and decision-makers in Managua, Nicaragua. The emphasis: access to energy for marginalized communities through sustainable energy options. With presentations and participation from the government’s renewable energy office, Nicaragua’s renewable energy association, an array of rural energy initiatives, and the region’s largest wind power developer, the working group took our research and potential for impact to a new level.

Participants from the workshop The Way Forward for Renewable Energy in Nicaragua at INCAE Business School Campus in Managua, Nicaragua.

Worldwatch Director of Climate & Energy, Alexander Ochs, incited the round table forum to recall that the overarching goal of our efforts is not to promote renewable energy technology for its own sake– as so often the discussion can remain caught in technical details – but for the environmental, social and economic outcomes that clean and locally-generated energy provides. Renewable energy is a means to reach overarching policy priorities: giving access to modern energy sources, mitigating local pollution and climate change, and addressing important gender, health, and education issues. In a region where countries ship 5 to 15 percent of their GDP overseas for the import of fossil fuels-the use of which produces high additional social, environmental and economic costs- harvesting domestic renewable energy sources is a prerequisite for sustained economic growth. Continue reading »

Experts Assess Future of Renewable Energy in Central America

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Aug 302012

The Worldwatch Institute and the INCAE Business School host high-level workshop on energy access and renewable energy potential in Central America

WASHINGTON – August 30 – The Worldwatch Institute ( and the INCAE Business School’s Latin American Center for Competitiveness and Sustainable Development (CLACDS) are co-hosting two workshops on “The Way Forward for Renewable Energy in Central America” in Managua, Nicaragua and Alajuela, Costa Rica tomorrow and on September 3, respectively. The participative dialogues aim to promote the exchange of ideas and experiences among a select group of experts from regional institutions, civil society organizations, energy sector companies, and government agencies. The workshops will focus on the role of renewable technologies in broadening access to modern energy services and achieving regional development goals.
“This project is a joint effort aimed at speeding the development of renewables in Central America,” said Alexander Ochs, Director of Worldwatch’s Climate and Energy Program. “Key energy experts will gather in one room to discuss the region’s challenges and opportunities in embracing renewables, discussing state-of-the-art reforms as well as areas of local, national, and regional best practices.”

“It’s not just that all countries will need to contribute to mitigating and adapting to global climate change.” continued Ochs. “Central America can become a real leader on renewables, given the high price it pays for its current energy system—-some countries spend 10 percent or more of their GDP on importing fossil fuels. The region has also had exciting early experiences with adopting new, unconventional renewable technologies, including geothermal, solar, biomass, and wind technologies.”

The first workshop will take place at the INCAE Business School’s Managua campus from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, August 30, 2012. The second workshop will take place at the INCAE Business School’s Alajuela campus from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Monday, September 3, 2012.

[You can find the full announcement HERE]