RELAC: Latin America and the Caribbean’s historic commitment towards renewable energy
For the first time in history, Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries join efforts on a regional renewable energy goal.
On December 10th, 2019, during the UN COP25 Conference in Madrid, LAC countries took a tremendous leap towards realizing an ambitious renewable energy (RE) promise. As part of the Renewable Energy for Latin America and the Caribbean (RELAC) Initiative, 10 countries of the LAC region committed to achieving the regional goal of 70% renewable energy by 2030, more than double what the European Union is planning , and which is equivalent to 312 GW of installed capacity of RE. RELAC seeks to promote further development of RE in the region through a strong collaboration across countries and knowledge sharing. Ten countries have already committed namely Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Paraguay and Peru. RELAC is open to the participation of any other countries of the region.
Currently, the energy sector is responsible for 75% of global CO2 emissions (and 56% of the emissions of Latin America and the Caribbean . A regional objective of increasing RE installed capacity could significantly contribute to the decarbonization of the region and addressing mitigation and adaptation goals in line with the Paris Agreement. Furthermore, in a region where 18 million people do not have access to energy under acceptable conditions, this new commitment is set to lead the way towards democratizing the access to clean and reliable energy in the region.
This engagement showcases LAC’s determination to take advantage of the opportunities presented by a transition to low-carbon technologies, and to adopt a position of a global leader in the pursuit of climate action and low emission development strategies. As highlighted by the International Renewable Energy Agency’s (IRENA) executive director, “this initiative encompasses the type of sizable commitment needed in order to keep global climate efforts on track and help achieve the Paris Agreement goals”.
The RELAC initiative, led by Colombia, was officially launched within the framework of the Energy Day at COP25, organized by Chile, with the strong participation of Latin American energy ministers.
As highlighted by the Minister of Energy of Chile, Juan Carlos Jobet, this is the first time LAC countries join efforts to commit to a regional target on renewable energy. He highlighted the feasibility of this goal as “the region is blessed with abundant unconventional energy sources”. Accelerating renewable energy deployment in Chile, combined with the closing of 28 coal plants by 2040, will support Chile’s pledge to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, as announced by the Chilean President Sebastian Piñera in June 2019.
Following this statement, Colombia’s Minister of Energy and Mines, María Fernanda Suárez, reiterated the RELAC countries’ commitment to “increasing the installed capacity, prioritizing non-conventional renewable energy sources and promoting the exchange of experiences in order to reach at least 12GW of RE by 2030, of which 78GW must come from additional capacity”. She also added that the new sources are generating common challenges such as the need to make the network more flexible, develop carbon markets and move forward in the regulatory framework.
As the leader of the initiative, Colombia sets a goal of at least 4GW by 2030 from non-conventional renewable energy sources, reaching 74% of RE nationwide in the power generation grid . The country is eager to share its experience in legal approaches focused on conventional and non-conventional renewable energy sources with LAC countries, as well as to facilitate the collaboration in enabling the region’s integration processes toward this common goal.
Representing the Latin America Energy Organization (OLADE) as the coordinator of the RELAC, the Director of Integration, Access and Energy Security, Medardo Cadena, stressed the initiative’s “definable and measurable objectives” as “an important factor that will contribute not only to combat the effects of climate change but also to reduce energy poverty in the region.”
As with any ambitious initiative, technical and financial cooperation will be key to ensure its success. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), OLADE, and IRENA have already facilitated data and discussion platforms to initiate the elaboration of the work plan for the implementation of the initiative and the International Energy Agency (IEA) has committed to support RELAC with the data and information needed to make this goal a reality.
In a similar manner, the Low Emission Development Strategies Global Partnership (LEDS GP) through its platform LEDS LAC, the NDC Partnership, and WWF actively support the initiative through facilitating of information, knowledge management, and peer-to-peer exchange across countries.
Ms. Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter, the Parliamentary State Secretariat at the German Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) also stated BMU´s support to LAC countries in this regional pledge.
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For pictures from the launch refer to our Flickr.
 Valerie Volcovici (2019), Latin America pledges 70% renewable energy, surpassing EU , Reuters, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-climate-change-un-colombia/latin-america-pledges-70-renewable-energy-surpassing-eu-colombia-minister-idUSKBN1WA26Y
 Ministry of Mines and Energy of Colombia, “Towards a cleaner electricity in Latin America and the Caribbean -Colombia´s Initiative towards the 2019 Climate Action Summit and COP25”, 2019