OUTLOOK: Energy efficiency looks to gain ground in Latin America and the Caribbean

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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

"In general terms, it is possible to affirm the perception of a clear improvement of attention and dedication in the majority of countries regarding the problem of energy efficiency," according to a study from the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (Eclac).

"Good part of this is due to the convincement that climate change is a reality and that one of the most efficient forms to contribute to the mitigation of its effects is the application of cost effective energy efficiency policies," it added.

Energy efficiency is one action area in the World Bank's recent report, Turn Down the Heat: Confronting the New Climate Normal.

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Latin America is the developing region whose land stands to be most affected in 2100, if global warming increases average temperatures by 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to the international lender.

Regional bank IDB adds that of all the region's untapped clean energy sources, energy efficiency may offer the greatest impact at the lowest cost. "IDB researchers have estimated that the region could reduce its energy consumption 10% over the next decade and save tens of billions of dollars by adopting existing technologies to increase efficiency," said the bank.

Greater impetus to advance on this front is expected following the UN Climate Change Conference held in Peru, where energy efficiency anchored itself as a policymaking pillar.

At the event, local energy authorities showcased the country's 2014-25 national energy policy, characterized by energy efficiency's prominent role.

The government plan of Uruguay's President Tabaré Vázquez, who takes office in March, also looks to place greater emphasis on energy efficiency.

Other regional drivers include Chile's launch of its 2014-18 energy agenda, which includes a plan to save 20,000GWh/y by 2025 through energy efficiency.

Ecuador, meanwhile, has approved an electric energy public service bill, which includes energy efficiency promotion.

And Costa Rica's government next year expects a plan to tackle power sector challenges in four areas, including energy efficiency.

International cooperation, in particular from Japan, will also contribute to this end.

In 2014, the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) and Mexico's Banco Nacional de Comercio Exterior inked a deal to support renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.

While the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) signed an agreement with the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and IDB to support Eastern Caribbean renewable energy and energy efficiency efforts.

Challenges and hurdles exist, however, that stymie energy efficiency activities and programs in the region.

Barriers include lack of institutional continuity, a low profile within energy ministries and departments, lack of knowledge of the economic benefits and applicable technologies, regulatory shortfalls, lack of import incentives, financial system lending reticence and lack of indicators to demonstrate results, according to Eclac.