Energy Policy Scenarios to 2050
2.2.4 Latin America and the Caribbean
The Latin American and the Caribbean region rates itself in the middle with regard to its current state of achieving the 3 A's, indicating much work is needed. The nations of the Latin American and the Caribbean region are diverse in size, economies, natural resources, social development, and political systems. A specific feature of the Latin American and the Caribbean region is the high percentage of its population - over 75% - that live in urban areas. In terms of energy, the region is distinctive for its large renewable resources (mainly hydropower and biomass). Given the region's characteristics, the elimination of poverty through increasing Accessibility and Availability is a natural focus. Meeting the needs of transport, harnessing natural resources (particularly agricultural land and hydroelectric potential), and accessing modern sources, as well as any relationships to climate change, and Acceptability are priorities.
The region has a high degree of access to commercial energy, although this does not mean that energy usage is evenly disseminated, principally because of economic differences between countries and sub-regions. Nevertheless, governments have been investing to overcome these shortcomings. Urban areas are mostly covered by energy supply networks and delivery services of electricity and gas, mainly liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), although some urban areas have natural-gas supply networks. Important efforts have been made to extend electricity supply to remote rural areas and small communities, either by network extension or by local generation. Another feature that contributes to Accessibility is low electricity tariffs and gas prices for low-income populations, as practiced in most of the region.
In overall terms, the region has substantial sources of energy, although its distribution among the various countries is far from uniform. Of particular note are the major heavy-oil reserves in Venezuela. The Atlantic drainage basin also has huge hydropower potential, of which less than half has been harnessed, as well as a major capacity for producing biomass for electricity and biofuel.
Annual per capita consumption of energy varies significantly from country to country, being 300 GJ/capita in Trinidad and Tobago and only 10 GJ/capita in Haiti. Another indicator pointing to the highly diverse nature of the region is the energy intensity of the different countries, varying from 36 MJ/$(ppp) in Trinidad and Tobago (a large exporter of natural gas) to 4 MJ/$(ppp) in Barbados. The Latin America and the Caribbean region's average value is around 11 MJ/$(ppp), slightly above the world average of about 10 MJ/$(ppp).
The region has a number of achievements in the use of biofuels and hydroelectricity. For example, Brazil is responsible for the most extensive global programme introducing biofuels into its energy matrix (the ethanol programme) and charcoal in iron and steel production. In this latter context, renewable biomass is favoured over that derived from the extraction of native wood. The region's dedication to bio-energy was recently underlined with the development of biodiesel as an alternative fuel, principally for transport. As a result, the region's carbon emissions per unit GDP are comparatively low.
On the other hand, some parts of the region still demand large quantities of firewood for residential as well as industrial purposes. Besides being an inefficient and polluting energy source, the origin of this resource is mostly native forests, not always close to the point of consumption - implying high costs for the transport of firewood or charcoal. This process also destroys a valuable CO2 sink. The most serious aspect related to the use of firewood, including charcoal production, is the accelerated deforestation of certain regions with enormous damage to the environment, which significantly contributes to the region's CO2 emissions. Unconditional use of this source of energy is due to poor Accessibility to modern sources of energy.
Environmental questions of a local nature, such as those related to hydroelectric generation or monocultures as energy sources, are common in the majority of the region's countries. Questions of a global nature, particularly emissions from burning fossil fuels, are common to all countries, all of which must introduce measures to reduce such global impacts.