Friday, 24 January 2014 11:57

Can Chile balance growth and climate action?

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By Alison Kirsch and Guy Edwards  chilecc Chile is at a crossroads. Copper prices are falling, the gap between energy supply and demand is widening. Chile faces a difficult balancing act to maintain its strong economic growth and the energy this requires, while ensuring progress on its climate, environmental and clean energy goals. In this whirlwind of domestic change, Chile has the opportunity to reaffirm its position as a global leader on climate change.
A recent visit to Costa Rica by Chinese President Xi Jinping has led to a mounting backlash against a proposed oil refinery, which undermines Costa Rica’s target of becoming carbon neutral by 2021.
Monday, 22 April 2013 10:35 presents Do the Math - The Movie

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Saturday, 19 January 2013 08:47

Tomorrow’s energy: Stopping oil consumption today

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The International Energy Agency (IEA) has launched a significant challenge and provided two somewhat distressing warnings: two thirds of the world’s fossil fuel reserves need to be kept underground if we are to avoid climate change, even while it is projected that the energy sector will double its consumption of freshwater over the next 20 years and the world’s poor will continue to lack access to energy.
Wednesday, 06 June 2012 10:55

Can Bolivia benefit from a potential lithium bonanza?

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History is on the verge of repeating itself in Bolivia. In a time when the world is trying to find the best ways to achieve sustainable development and deal with climate change, Bolivia stands poised to provide an especially vital resource to any budding green revolution: lithium. But looking at the country’s troubled mining history it is questionable whether Bolivia will be able to turn its lithium into prosperity, or just another exported opportunity.
Centuries of foreign extraction of Bolivian natural resource wealth have occurred at the expense of environmental protection and overall development within Bolivia. Since the Spanish began mining silver in Potosí in the mid 16th Century, foreign mining interests have destroyed forests and depleted water reserves, severely altering the Bolivian environment. All the while, these same foreign mining interests have removed a large portion of the wealth generated by the resources, leaving large areas of Bolivia underdeveloped. Presently, the global need for lithium and the Bolivian government’s need for foreign investment will require the prompt, and sustainable, development of Bolivia’s substantial lithium reserves. This paper examines historical mining perspectives in Bolivia with the goal of understanding how to improve future mining policy. To that end, the paper concludes with policy recommendations for the next stage of seeking foreign investors for development of Bolivian lithium reserves.
At the end of March, the 12th International Energy Forum (IEF) will meet in Cancún, México. The IEF is the world’s largest gathering of energy ministers accounting for more than 90% of global oil and gas supply and demand. Brazil, China, India, Mexico, Russia and South Africa will also be participating in the Forum. As the FT points out, past disagreements at the International Energy Forum led to oil shocks followed by global recessions. Topics to be discussed at the Forum include assessing the future of supply and demand of oil and gas and identifying barriers that undermine investment. Transparency in the energy sector will also play an important part in the talks. Questions concerning the sustainability of energy policies will also feature strongly with debates taking place on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) development and the eradication of energy poverty. With investment in the region set to rise considerably from Venezuela’s oil-rich Orinoco Belt to Brazil’s mammoth offshore oil reserves combined with the next big batch of climate change negotiations taking place in México, Latin America will play host to a turbulent fusion of issues surrounding climate change and energy security. It is uncertain whether the advocates of traditional energy resources represented by the IEF can work constructively towards the shift to a low carbon economy in which energy security is compatible with tackling climate change. A report by the IEF on the potential and limitations of biofuels provides a useful reference to ascertain the level of willingness to work together. The report suggests there is ‘an urgent need to review existing biofuel policies’ to avoid causing economic instability and undermining food security. The legitimacy of first generation biofuels, except for the Brazilian case, is questionable and the risk of increasing energy insecurity in the absence of reviewing existing policies is a genuine threat to market stability. On the positive side, the report’s authors, Claude Mandil and Adnan Shihab-Eldin, acknowledge the potential role of biofuels to contribute usefully to energy security and climate protection. Can the world’s ‘old skool’ energy cohort work together with those advocating a rapid transition to clean energy and maximising energy efficiency to save tax-payers' money and reduce carbon emissions? The IEF report would suggest there is sufficient mutual interest to form the basis for working together and building consensus. Yet, the energy sector is an incredibly competitive sector of the global economy with business interests often dictating policy and undermining climate and economic security. This is why the development of an international climate change architecture to light the path for the energy sector towards low carbon growth is urgently required.
Wednesday, 11 November 2009 18:49

Ecuador’s energy supply runs dry

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Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa Delgado has declared a state of electrical emergency nationwide for the next 60 days ushering in a potentially new era where the sustainability of hydroelectric power could be thrown into doubt. The release of the decree, which aims to guarantee the continuity and supply of electricity, comes after the government had little choice but to announce a nationwide energy rationing programme. The energy crisis follows a sustained drought that has seen a significant decrease in the volume of water flowing into the country’s most important dam at the Paute plant, which supplies 35 percent of the nation’s electricity. The BBC World correspondent, Paúl Mena Erazo, reports that Correa blames the impacts of climate change and his predecessors for shoddy management and pitifully low sums of investment. During a television appearance Correa went on the defensive by labeling Ecuador a ´victim of climate change´ and describing at length the government’s ongoing construction of 6 new hydroelectric plants to plug the energy deficit, which will come online within 5 years. In the meantime, however, Ecuador has bought 700,000 barrels of diesel from Colombia and Venezuela to ensure a supply of energy to their thermoelectric plants to feed the grid. Energy efficiency measures are also being encouraged. Mobile phone owners, for example, are receiving text messages from the Ministry of Electricity and Renewable Energy, asking consumers not to use irons or washing machines at peak times. The short and long term consequences of this energy crisis will not be clear for the time being. However, with hydropower off the menu, it would be appear that resorting to thermoelectric plants and generators using diesel will result in an increase in carbon emissions and pollution. A decrease in the use of public transport could also be expected as bus stops are plunged into darkness fueling fears over increased attacks and accidents, leaving some citizens little choice but to jump into their cars. Over the long term, the government’s hydropower strategy may risk being undermined as unpredictable rainfall and melting glaciers play havoc with hydroelectric plant’s raw ingredient: water. Improving water governance and adapting to climate change; energy efficiency drives to reduce pressure on the demand side; and expanding the country’s renewable energy portfolio will be required urgently. Alternative strategies relying on greater use of fossil fuels to fill the gap would be a regressive step considering Ecuador, alongside its Andean Community neighbours, already generate roughly 73% of their energy from hydropower.
Wednesday, 16 September 2009 18:29

CEPAL study charges up the energy efficiency debate

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On the 15th September ECLAC Executive Secretary, Alicia Bárcena, inaugurated an inter-governmental meeting on energy efficiency in Santiago, Chile:
The meeting "Situation and Perspectives on Energy Efficiency in Latin America and the Caribbean" is named after a study prepared by ECLAC and the Latin American Energy Organization (OLADE) presented during the event. The meeting was organized by ECLAC, OLADE and the German cooperation agency GTZ.

Participating in the inauguration were Chile's Minister of Energy Marcelo Tokman, OLADE Executive Secretary Carlos Florez and the Director of GTZ in Chile, Edgar Von Knebel.

Bárcena stressed that there are still few measures being taken in the region to make a more efficient use of energy. "The fiscal incentives our governments are now offering as a means to overcome the financial crisis should be used in this direction, linking them to investments related to energy efficiency. It is an opportunity we cannot let by," she said.

The region is ready to commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20% through energy efficiency, said Bárcena.

"The region should assume a more proactive position on this issue. Efficiency is perhaps the best means to achieve energy and climate security," she added.
Referring to Chile's experience, Energy Minister Tokman noted that the budget this year for improving energy efficiency is 40 times greater than in 2006. "We are strengthening our analytical capacity to design more effective measures. Therefore, all regional studies are welcome," he said.

Tokman stated that Chile is developing a plan that includes educating children on the importance of protecting energy, informing consumers so they may better select energy-consuming appliances, assisting the productive and public sectors to attain better practices, and providing subsidies to encourage the correct use of energy, among other measures.

Florez stressed the need to advance towards the creation of a database of energy indicators in the region to measure the results of energy efficiency initiatives.
Von Knebel said that his agency would continue to cooperate with projects that improve energy efficiency in the region through, for example, contests that award innovative ideas.

Representatives of the ministries of energy from 15 countries in the region and international organizations participated in the intergovernmental meeting.
The conclusions of the study were as follows:
1. Situation of Energy Efficiency programs, projects and initiatives in LAC is very different depending on the country analyzed.

2. The regulatory and institutional contexts are very different and countries cannot be addressed with a similar approach. A strong process of local adaptation must be done in order to be successful.

3. It is not possible or convenient to merely copy foreign regulations. They must be “taylor-made” for LAC countries.

4. In several countries of the Region, lack of continuity in Energy Efficiency policy regulations has been (and still is…) critical

5. This discontinuity generates the risk off losing experienced technical teams. In fact, counting on trained national experts able to manage national Energy Efficiency programs, requires a long time and continued efforts.

6. In most countries investigated (except Mexico) local financial sources do not exist focused to specifically support Energy Efficiency programmes.

7. A relevant difficulty in monitoring the results of energy efficiency programmes is evident.

8. The mere existence of compulsory energy efficiency laws or regulations does not guarantee at all the success of a national Energy Efficiency Programmes.

9. National Energy Efficiency programmes still depend excessively on international support, although volatility of energy prices are starting to trigger some local investing initiatives.

10. Barriers referred to lack of information for energy consumers, aimed at being more efficient in using energy, are still high.

A presentation of the study can be viewed here.

The Inter-American Development has also been a vocal proponent of greater energy efficiency arguing that Latin America and the Caribbean could save US$36 billion through energy efficiency investments by 2018. That’s more or less the equivalent of the GDP of Costa Rica, Honduras and Barbados combined!
President Obama’s speech at the opening of the Fifth Summit of the Americas being held in the Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, emphasized the importance of hemispheric action on climate change and energy security: [youtube=] During his speech President Obama said:
We can strengthen the foundation of our prosperity and our security and our environment through a new partnership on energy. Our hemisphere is blessed with bountiful resources, and we are all endangered by climate change. Now we must come together to find new ways to produce and use energy so that we can create jobs and protect our planet. So today, I'm proposing the creation of a new Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas that can forge progress to a more secure and sustainable future. It's a partnership that will harness the vision and determination of countries like Mexico and Brazil that have already done outstanding work in this area to promote renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Each country will bring its own unique resources and needs, so we will ensure that each country can maximize its strengths as we promote efficiency and improve our infrastructure, share technologies, support investments in renewable sources of energy. And in doing so, we can create the jobs of the future, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and make this hemisphere a model for cooperation. The dangers of climate change are part of a broad range of threats to our citizens, so the third area where we must work together is to advance our common security.
This is encouraging stuff. Crucially, climate change was not relegated to the periphery as if only of interest to lab rats and technicians. Constructing the issue of climate change around other concerns relating to energy security, prosperity and job creation is critical. Regional governments need to not only wake up to the melting glaciers around them and rising sea levels, but also how their recovery from the financial crisis and their future development fit into this new paradigm. So far this framing of the debate has occurred in isolated pockets. Let’s hope the Summit can lead to a new chapter where global warming is not merely perceived as an environmental headache, but a conundrum for politicians of all stripes and government departments to get stuck into as well.