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Monica_55905 Jul 16

LAEF 2021 - Energy and Economic Recovery

LAEF 2021 - Energy and Economic Recovery image
The round of interactive project discussions, or EnergyNet Boardroom, took place on Monday 28th June, day three of the Latin America Energy Forum.
The session was moderated by Guillermo Koutoudjian, Acting Director of Integration, Access and Energy Security at OLADE, the Latin American Energy Association, and partners of EnergyNet under the Latin American and Caribbean Gas Conference.

Mr. Koutoudjian commenced the conversation mentioning recent expansive reforms made by many countries in the region, towards energy projects. Have these reforms been impacted the economy of said countries? He wondered, leaving the answer in hands of the key participants leading the session, H.E. Honourable Gabriel Arguello, vice minister of Electricity and Renewable Energy, Ministry of Energy and Non-Renewable Resources, Ecuador, H.E. Honourable Jorge Rivera Staff, National Secretary of Energy, National Energy Secretariat of Panama, H.E Honourable Rolando Castro, Vice Minister of Energy and Environmental Quality, Ministry of Environment and Energy, Costa Rica, H.E. Honourable Carlos Zaldivar, Vice Minister of Mines and Energy, Ministry of Public Works and Communications of Paraguay, and Fitzgerald Cantero, National Director of Energy, Ministry of Industry, Energy, And Mining, Uruguay.  

Guillermo also addressed the advance of renewable energies in the region, and as an overarching theme in the sector, globally. But specifically in LATAM there are, he mentioned, “numerous wind, solar and hydrogen projects. And of course this energy transition also leaves space for gas projects."

H.E. Honourable Jorge Rivera Staff, National Secretary of Energy, National Energy Secretariat of Panama gave an overview of the country’s energy landscape: "our electrical matrix is ​​historically 75% hydro, and the rest is wind and solar. Two years ago we started deploying the already approved energy plans aligned with the SDG7s, and the commitments with the Paris agreement. On top of that we continue to incorporate the energy transition into our government plans, with specific strategies for the electricity sector that will get us closer to universal access."
 
As for Costa Rica, H.E Honourable Rolando Castro, Vice Minister of Energy and Environmental Quality, pointed at the issue of competitiveness and the optimization of the electricity supply. As a surplus exchange region, with renewable energy sources competing with non-renewable energies, resulting in differentiated costs.

“Furthermore, our industry is continuously comparing prices across the region, which brings into light anything that needs to be optimizes”, he added.  

From his point of view, gas in the region also represents a challenge within the frame of decarbonization plans. “Is gas a transitional tool, or an energy predator?” he questioned out loud, answering himself: “It is both, but therein lies the challenge.

“The only way to compete is with competitive prices and rates.”

On the subject of recovery, Minister Castro brought up the fact that the Covid-19 pandemic taking place in the middle of the aforementioned energy transition is in itself another massive challenge, and one that might result in shortcuts to reach solutions, which actually have the potential of making us take more steps back.

“The Covid-19 economic crisis revealed the problem of energy sovereignty, especially in countries like ours, which import fossil fuels. We must continue to champion decarbonization, without being tempted by the versatility of fossil fuels, and the aforementioned shortcuts.”

Gustavo Cazal, Director of Alternative Energy, Ministry of Public Works and Communications of Paraguay agreed, and reminded the Boardroom of Paraguay’s progress adapting the legal framework to attract investment towards alternative energies. “The high dependence on oil derivatives leaves us very vulnerable” he said, “so we have to work to align the targets of the Paris COP and SDG7 with our situation.”
 
Technological innovation represents a great challenge for the country in terms of training and education. Government is already working hand in hand with some regional universities and schools in order to solve this. Mr. Cazal mentioned that the Covid pandemic was not a very strong trigger for their energy sector, as they had a 7% increase in consumption, but that increase did force utilities to strengthen distribution, and optimize payment collection and invoicing systems.
 
Fitzgerald Cantero, National Director of Energy, Ministry of Industry, Energy, And Mining, Uruguay manifested the country’s intention to provide higher quality to their electricity generation.
 
“We’re working on a decree to issue generation quality certificates, certifying the renewable origin of this energy.” There are also projects on micro-generation and distributed generation, with planned incentives to the latter. “We have big plans for hydrogen, to supplement wind and solar generation. And we are betting heavily on electric mobility, with infrastructure, training and vehicles.”