Energy Efficiency Gets Regional Push In Latin America

Organizations in Latin America have joined forces to launch a regional energy efficiency program.
Published: Fri 26 Sep 2014

As part of the "Towards a New Energy Agenda for the Region" initiative, several regional organizations in Latin America are collaborating on the implementation of a joint program to promote the market development of energy efficiency projects in the region.

The organizations are the Association of Latin American Integration (ALADI), Regional Association of Oil, Gas and Biofuels Companies (ARPEL), Development Bank of Latin America (CAF), Economic Commission for Latin America (CEPAL), Commission for Regional Energy Integration (CIER), Organization of American States (OEA), Latin American Energy Association (OLADE), and World Energy Council (WEC).

The Regional Energy Efficiency Program (Programa Regional de Eficiencia Energética) will target all key sectors and players, including energy consumers, industrial and sector associations, technology providers etc. The program will also be promoted to policy makers and regulators so that barriers to energy efficiency can be addressed.

Challenges for energy efficiency in Latin America

A full program of activities and expected outcomes is still to be drawn up but a March 2013 vision document from the organizations (Energía: Una visión sobre los retos y oportunidades en América Latina y el Caribe) recommended the implementation of energy efficiency measures. While there are some initiatives, there is great potential in the region for energy efficiency. In many cases the actions are low cost but bring short, medium and long term benefits.

The document set out a number of principles and challenges for energy efficiency activities based on experiences in the region:

● The need to properly articulate energy efficiency policy, with a clear vision, actions and goals

● Designation of a responsible authority and implementation of legal and regulatory frameworks

● Monitoring and verification should take place to ensure that the goals are met

● Market size is a barrier in some countries, which may be overcome with regional cooperation

● Coordination is needed with other sectors such as transport, industry, housing, health and education

● The need for sufficient and long-term funding for programs.

The report also notes that special attention needs to be paid to the issue of energy losses (both technical and non-technical), which average the order of 13%-14% across the region. This high level is indicative of gaps in investment and/or management of distribution networks. Many distribution companies have taken steps to reduce losses but still there is a widespread culture of delinquency and theft. Given the complexity of the issue, a comprehensive approach is required from government and other sectors of society.

Energy efficiency potential in Latin America

A recent study by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) on recent energy efficiency activities in the region has confirmed earlier findings that in general, about 15-20% of energy consumption could be avoided using measures with short payback periods.

There is potential for huge savings in the substitution of obsolete household appliances for those with higher energy efficiency. There is also still great potential to implement cogeneration energy technologies for industries and large plant in the tertiary sector.

Further reading

Energía: Una visión sobre los retos y oportunidades en América Latina y el Caribe (in Spanish)

Energy efficiency in Latin America and the Caribbean: progress and challenges of the past five years. Executive Summary

Eficiencia energética en América Latina y el Caribe: avances y desafíos del último quinquenio. Resumen ejecutivo (in Spanish)