Latin America plays central role in the energy transition

Posted on 29 September 2017

In addition to launches of two of the World Energy Council’s newest member committees – Panama and the Dominican Republic in August, Latin America and the Caribbean has been playing a central role in the energy sector as the region undergoes a major transformation. The Council’s Secretary General, Dr Christoph Frei and Vice Chair of Latin America, Claudia Cronenbold as well as Dr Jose Antonio Vargas Lleras, Chairman of the Colombian member committee of the Council, participated in various events which took place in the region over the last two months.

Bolivian Committee holds its tenth annual energy conference

The Council had a strong presence at the 10th International Gas & Energy Bolivia Congress held in the economic capital of the country, Santa Cruz de la Sierra on 23 – 24 August.

New energy realities such as digitisation impacting the energy sector and the drop in oil prices was at the heart of discussions, with participants forecasting a slight recovery at the end of the year. LNG becoming more competitive in the South American region was also discussed.

It also concluded Brazil’s energy transition could affect future gas negotiations with Bolivia. At the same time the Argentine energy scene is witnessing an acceleration of the development of Shale gas with 20 projects in the pipeline and more than $us 11 trillion in investments.

Dr Christoph Frei, said: “What happened 10 years ago in energy now is no longer true. We have a great transition. There are three forces that push the sector to a new reality. The first is climate change, we have decarbonised the GDP of the last 40 years with one percentage point each year. If we want to achieve the objectives of the Paris agreement, we have to accelerate and improve by 6% annually, and that is a revolution.

“The second force is innovation. Many things that could not be done with electricity now can be done. For example, the electric vehicle, many industrial processes and we create new services such as communications and others that use much more electricity.

“That is, we are seeing an increasing electrification of final energy demand: electricity is the new oil of the future. This goes hand in hand with decentralisation and digitisation, which offers a breadth of business models and new possibilities.

“The third force is resilience and new risks. These can be cyber risks and extreme weather events, or the water-energy nexus. Risks change the way we think about infrastructure. For example, cybernetics are important in regions where the structure is highly digitised, the energy-water-nexus is critical in the Middle East, Australia,  and China. For the Latin American region, extreme weather events and their risks, such as the El Niño phenomenon is a critical issue.”

The event gathered more than 450 participants, executives from private and state companies, as well as national and international press.

Also in attendance was Vice-President of Bolivia, Alvaro Garcia Linera; Hydrocarbon Minister Luis Alberto Sanchez, the President of the Bolivian Chamber of Hydrocarbons and Energy; and Claudia Cronenbold, Vice Chair, Latin America and the Caribbean, World Energy Council.

The Council influences energy debate at ECPA 2017

 The Council also convened at the third Ministerial Meeting of the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA), in Viña del Mar, Chile, hosted by the Government of Chile, with the main theme centred on ‘Energy transition in the Hemisphere’, on 7 and 8 September.

Secretary General, Christoph Frei, addressed a Ministerial Roundtable session on innovation and discussed how digitalisation, decentralisation and blockchain applications  could impact the future of the energy sector. Day two focused on a Ministerial Session on Energy Efficiency.

Across the Americas—a region with abundant renewable energy resources—countries are moving toward cleaner energy, driven by the urgency of a changing climate. ECPA has helped shape the region’s efforts to tackle a range of challenges. The meeting was an opportunity to sharpen priorities, strengthen cooperation, and deepen the commitment to a transition to sustainable energy.

Among the topics on the agenda was the approval of an Action Plan for the period 2018-2019, which lists the activities proposed by the countries of the region to advance energy transition within the framework of the pillars of ECPA.

Energy information systems in Latin America, renewable energy development, metrology in energy efficiency, and financing for the development of renewable energy projects were also discussed.

Twenty-four countries of the Americas were represented at the event, including nine Ministers and six deputy Ministers of Energy.

Colombia host electric mobility conference

On 20-21 September the Colombian member Committee of the Council hosted their first international conference on ‘Electric mobility: a path towards sustainability’, in Bogota.

The potential of electric mobility, both in Colombia and in the countries of the region, is high and has great prospects in the incorporation of non-conventional renewable energies.

The event gathered executives and high-level public officials including the Colombian Vice Minister of Transport, Alejandro Maya, to discuss the role of electric mobility in smart cities, technological advances in electric mobility, and experiences in mass electric mobility among other topics.

Dr Jose Antonio Vargas Lleras, Vice Chair, Latin America and Chair of the Colombian member committee of the Council, commented. “The country is taking some steps in the right direction, acccording to the Andemos electric and hybrid vehicles report of August 2017 in December last year there were 489 electric vehicles and 376 hybrids of a 5 million car park in the country and 1,100 motorcycles in a park of 7 million, this represents only 0.016% of the total market. This shows the great road ahead.

“However, there are some interesting test models that are starting to work, such as an E-Bike to Work bike rental scheme with 48 units in three locations and a business fleet of Codensa electric vehicles. Similarly, companies such as EPM and Emgesa Medellín have also carried out successful tests.”

The event concluded with a presentation on ‘Eolo: The Colombian electric car’, the first Colombian wind-powered car, by Javier Roldán and Wilmar Villarraga, leaders of the Eolo Project.