Energy Security for Sustainable Development in the Americas

At the First Summit of the Americas hosted in Miami in 1994, the Heads of State recognized that access to sustainable energy is indispensable to social and economic development and established the Partnership for Sustainable Energy Use1. Subsequent Summits maintained a focus on energy as a critical theme in the pursuit of sound economic growth and environmental sustainability. Further, at the 37th OAS General Assembly held in Panama City in 2007, the Member States unequivocally recognized as an essential goal, the need to generate and strengthen regional markets for the use of cleaner and renewable energy, as well as the exchange of information and experiences pertaining to sustainable energy for achieving sustainable development within the Hemisphere. In anticipation of the Fifth Summit of the Americas, the issues surrounding sustainable energy are even more relevant today and warrant aggressive responses from the heads of State.

The numerous challenges confronting the Americas in the energy sector are further exacerbated by the global financial crisis—hemispheric sustainable energy is an increasingly difficult challenge. The crisis is impacting the energy markets at all levels and is perceived as a threat to the region’s energy security. For consumers, the ability to pay for energy services has been significantly reduced as a result of job losses and loss of income. For energy producers and investors, deteriorating debt and equity markets have made accessing capital for new investments in energy supplies more difficult. Numerous energy projects have been suspended or canceled as a result of the crisis. Examples include over CAN$60 billion in delayed or canceled oil sands projects in Canada; the downsizing or cancelling of major wind farm and ethanol projects in the United States, and the suspension of over US$125 million in energy investments planned for 2009 in Brazil. On the positive side, reduced global demand for oil and the consequent drop in oil prices over the past six month have benefitted consumers. However oil producers in the region have suffered significant reductions in revenue.

While the countries of the hemisphere boast unique energy production capabilities and consumption patterns (the section below provides a summary of key energy‐related statistics throughout the region), there are a number of common challenges that confront them such as:

  • Access to modern energy services
  • Link between energy and climate change
  • Energy supply reliability
  • Energy price volatility
This policy brief examines several of these challenges, particularly in the context of the current economic crisis. In response to each of these challenging issues, a number of policy and development alternatives are suggested.

Energy Conservation and Environmental Protection Program - Summary

In 1986, the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras concluded a technical cooperation agreement known as the Trifinio Plan with the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (GS/OAS) and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA). The unique characteristics of the Plan area led the authorities of the three countries to protect part of it by establishing in 1987 the La Fraternidad Biosphere Reserve, comprising the Montecristo cloud forest (the Reserves' nucleus) and a surrounding buffer zone suitable primarily for forestry. As soon as the Plan was presented, in 1988, the countries began the dissemination and negotiation processes essential to its implementation. Through successive documents of understanding among the parties, the agreement has been extended to the present.

The Trifinio Plan consisted of a socioeconomic assessment and a strategy for regional development, based on a set of 29 trinational development projects and numerous national projects presented at the profile level. Among the elements shaping the strategy is the need for actions in the energy sector. This sector is closely related to environmental deterioration because of deforestation caused by the heavy demand for fuel wood. It was therefore considered necessary to promote activities to increase the energy supply through reforestation and to reduce household energy consumption with better-designed stoves that would use less firewood.

acrobat.gif (1204 bytes)411Kb - 42 pages

Integrated Energy Development - Experiences of the Organization of American States (1988)

While today's low oil prices have reduced the sense of urgency surrounding energy issues, most development practitioners realize that the current calm is neither the end of energy problems in developing countries nor are these low prices likely to continue indefinitely. Instead, it is the ideal time to reflect on recent experiences, evaluating both successes and failures with an eye toward preparing for the future.

This document is intended for development and energy planners in the OAS member states, international agencies and elsewhere. We hope that the lessons which the Department of Regional Development (DRD) has learned through programs in integrated energy development can be beneficial to others.

acrobat.gif (1204 bytes)244Kb - 45 pages

Renewable Energy Policy Manual

An undertaking that attempts to provide renewable energy policy guidance to policy strategists who operate across a spectrum of national energy systems inherently contains both the flaws and the strengths of “universal” or general concepts. Readers are asked to apply broad conceptual ideas in a specific national context. The authors have used operative or normative words with the objective of describing concepts neutrally - without implying conceptual bias. This objective is difficult to achieve - especially for multi-language translations. When possible, normative words are defined the first time they are used in the text.

acrobat.gif (1204 bytes)680Kb - 141 pages