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The way forward for renewable energy in Central America

Project Reference: TALA-0024

Read about this project in Spanish

Central America relies heavily on petroleum imports and unsustainable forms of large hydropower to meet its energy needs. Existing economic and political incentives are distorting markets in favour of fossil fuels and displacing the potential for better power solutions, including renewable energy. Their dependence on conventional energy sources has had wide-ranging social, environmental, and economic impacts, hampering development in the region.

The region’s governments have embraced a variety of policies to promote renewable energy, yet while, these have not been effective enough to advance renewables to their full potential. Support mechanisms are often insufficient, only partially implemented, or ineffectively administered, and they compete with strong existing subsidies and support for conventional energy sources. Central American countries have begun to integrate their political and economic systems through the signing of the Tegucigalpa Protocol and the establishment of the Central American Integration System (SICA).

There is now more opportunity than ever to rapidly advance sustainable energy in Central America. The economic and grid integration represents a tremendous opportunity for transitioning to renewable energy.

Meanwhile, the larger network of transmission lines and transfer stations presents greater opportunities to address the intermittency of renewable resources. In addition to grid-connected strategies, there are options for micro-grid and off-grid solutions, including small-scale distributed renewable energy technologies that can help improve energy access for low-income and marginalized communities.

Central America countries – which includes Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama-  can learn from each others experiences and replicate best practices. This is what CDKN and the Energy and Environment Partnership with Central America (EEP) are aiming to, by supporting a project lead by the World Watch Institute (WWI), during 2012 -2014.

The WWI, with CDKN support, will undertake a three-year research and advisory program that includes three project implementation phases. Phases 2 and 3 will be fine-tuned according to the results of Phase 1, which is currently being implemented.

Phase 1: Creation of a network of experts and initial study of the status of renewable energy and existing best practices

During 2012, Worldwatch will engage in a comprehensive data distillation, literature review, and analysis of renewable energy technologies in Central America. The report will highlight best practices in policymaking, finance, and project development at the regional, national, and subnational levels. Project outputs will include:

  • A web forum to connect stakeholders across the region and build an expert network with the goal of learning from each other;
  • Three regional workshops to engage local partners, governments, industry, the media, and international organizations;
  • An outreach campaign to circulate research findings through blogs, op-eds, and social media channels; and
  • A final report that summarizes their findings on the status of renewable energy development in the Central America region.

Phase 2: Sustainable Energy Roadmaps

During 2013–14, Worldwatch will design comprehensive energy roadmaps for the seven SICA member countries. In keeping with the Institute’s sustainable energy development model, the roadmaps will consist of energy efficiency and renewable resource assessments, grid and storage solutions, analysis of socioeconomic impacts of different energy pathways, as well as policy and finance options for the rapid advance of sustainable energy solutions. (See Diagram)

Phase 3: Integration and training

During 2014, Worldwatch will present the sustainable energy roadmaps to various stakeholders in Central America, including national and sub-national political personnel as well as business and industry experts. They will highlight regional and international best practices to showcase new opportunities for sustainable energy deployment, as well as train stakeholders in using roadmap data for new project development. The Institute, along with regional and international partners, will play an advisory role in planning key projects.

Project update (July 2013)

You can now read the report of the first phase in English, The Way Forward for Renewable Energy in Central America  and in Spanish, La Ruta hacia el Futuro para la Energia Renovable. 

CDKN funding: £82,000

Project Manager: Isabela Souza

Picture from Energías Renovadas 

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