Experts assess future of renewable energy in Central America
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.
The Central American countries of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama rely heavily on large hydropower, imported petroleum and traditional biomass for their energy supply.
This dependence on conventional energy sources has had wide-ranging and adverse social, environmental, and economic impacts, hampering sustained and sustainable development in the region. Energy needs, particularly of marginalized and low-income communities, have not been sufficiently met.
Although Central American governments have embraced various policies to promote renewable energy - and recent trends in geothermal, wind and solar energy have been encouraging - the region still faces many challenges in advancing renewables to their full potential.
With support from the Climate Development Knowledge Network and the Energy and Environment Partnership with Central America, Worldwatch and the INCAE Business School are partnering to design "Sustainable Energy Roadmaps" that help decision makers in the region implement an improved transitional strategy toward an energy system that is socially, environmentally, and economically superior to the one that currently exists.
The goal is to help Central America continue to harness its immense potential to utilize renewable energy sources such as wind, geothermal, solar, biomass, and small-scale hydropower.
During the workshops, Worldwatch and INCAE experts will present and discuss initial findings of the roadmap project, enabling completion of Phase 1 of the project.
The goals of this first phase are: to scope existing market trends, given investment conditions and implemented policies; to identify renewable energy success stories that can be replicated elsewhere in the region and discuss what is needed for their scale-up; and to analyze the technical, socio-economic, and political/financial "cold spots" where future data gathering and analysis can add to the information needed to make successful policy choices.
In Phase 2, the project team will propose concrete steps toward rapidly expanding the adoption of renewable energy technologies in Central America, and communicate these to key decision makers.
Experts from a range of renewable energy and policy professions, including representatives from the Ministry of Energy and Mines of Nicaragua; the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America; and Costa Rica's Ministry of Environment, Energy and Telecommunications; among others, will present best-practice case studies as well as recommendations on how to replicate such examples.
Participants will discuss individual suggestions in break-out groups or 'action labs' during the workshops. The involvement of leading thinkers in the project will extend beyond the workshops through ongoing participation in the project's future activities as well as a moderated online forum, enabling the formation of a community of experts committed to advancing renewable energy in Central America.
"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."
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