Reflections on energy efficiency in Latin America



Finding concrete and viable actions to implement national energy efficiency programmes, while at the same time achieving a culture of saving and the rational use of energy, were common measures for the hundred or so experts who gathered at a seminar on energy efficiency organised by the Latin American Energy Organization of Energy (Organización Latinoamericana de Energía, OLADE) in Quito, Ecuador last August.

The electricity sector in Latin America and the Caribbean has made some progress with the implementation of energy efficiency programmes. However, to date the majority of efforts have been directed at alleviating emergency conditions, such as deficiencies in power generation or the non supply of energy. Moreover, there has been little effort, except in the cases of a few actions in only a few countries, to introduce energy efficiency into the transport sector, which is responsible for the greater part of demand in the energy matrix.

The substitution of incandescent lighting and the incorporation of efficient household appliances and motors are just some of the common actions that were identified by the delegates and specialists from 19 member countries of OLADE, Europe, the US and Asia, to incorporate efficient energy as an additional energy resource in countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Delegates agreed that programmes for energy saving and the efficient use of energy in all the sectors of consumption would give rise to economic and social benefits for the populations of the countries in the region. Coupled with the use of renewable energies energy efficiency programmes also would bring about a considerable reduction in demand for non renewable energy, with its price fluctuations linked to that of oil.

Thus the consideration of energy efficiency as a resource in the energy plans of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean is a strategic objective.

The basis for the foundation of energy efficiency in the region should be a harmonisation of test procedures and exchange of technical experiences. Some countries initiated energy efficiency actions and programmes as far back as the 1980s, while other countries are only now starting these processes, and it is clear that the gap in the learning curve can be reduced with a sharing of successful experiences. Achieving a greater level of commitment in public administration as well as a consistent orientation in public policies on energy efficiency programmes also would be beneficial.

States have a key role to play in energy efficiency, as their investment has a multiplying effect that benefits the whole population. However, energy efficiency is not solely the responsibility of the government, but is also a responsibility of companies. Publicprivate alliances on energy efficiency have proven to have excellent results.

Prior to the implementation of energy efficiency programmes, governments have the responsibility to establish measures to control losses in the distribution of electricity.

To strengthen energy efficiency programmes in a sustainable manner it is essential to provide on going support to technological innovation and to use the appropriate technologies and equipment according to the local, national or regional requirements, together with controlled quality patterns.

Changing the paradigm of energy efficiency, so that it is not only a practice but also a business, will show the immediate benefits at the economic and social levels. However, awareness programmes are not by themselves sufficient to create a culture of energy efficiency among the population. It is also necessary to incorporate concepts and measures of energy efficiency within the different levels of formal education.

About the organisation: OLADE is an intergovernmental body, set up on 2 November 1973 through the signing of the Lima Convention ratified by 26 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Its mission is to contribute to regional integration, sustainable development and energy security through advising and encouraging cooperation and coordination among the member countries.