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Sustainable Use of Energy Contributes to Overcoming Barriers to Development in the Region

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18 August 2015|Press Release

The MIT Sloan School of Management and ECLAC hold a seminar on the future of energy in Santiago, Chile.


Photo of the inauguration of the seminar
Vittorio Corbo, MIT Sloan Latin America Advisory Council Member, Antonio Prado, Deputy Executive Secretary of ECLAC, Roberto Rigobon, Professor at MIT Sloan School of Management, and Ricardo Sánchez, Officer-in-charge of ECLAC's Natural Resources and Infrastructure Division.
Photo: Carlos Vera/ECLAC

(August 18, 2015) Using the abundant energy resources found in Latin America and the Caribbean in a sustainable way can significantly contribute to overcoming barriers to development, experts gathered at ECLAC’s headquarters in Santiago, Chile said during the seminar The Future of Energy: Latin America’s Path to Sustainability.

The event, organized by the MIT Sloan School of Management and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), was inaugurated on Tuesday, August 18. The seminar was attended by international authorities, specialists and scholars on energy, who will learn from experiences in different spheres of technology and sustainable energy policy with the aim of defining the most opportune and viable solutions for each of their countries.

The meeting, which is part of the UN Secretary-General’s initiative “Sustainable Energy for All” (SE4ALL)—which aims to ensure universal access to sustainable energy by 2030—was inaugurated by Antonio Prado, ECLAC’s Deputy Executive Secretary, and Vittorio Corbo, member of the MIT Sloan Latin America Advisory Council and former president of Chile’s Central Bank. The seminar was  also attended by Chile’s Energy Minister, Máximo Pacheco, among other prominent figures.

Prado said that the sustainable use of energy not only contributes to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions but also enables improvements in productivity within the region’s economies, in social inclusion, well-being and governance.

“Our region is extraordinarily well-endowed with resources, but it still falls short in terms of mechanisms to guarantee that this wealth is appropriated and distributed fairly among its citizens,” ECLAC’s Deputy Executive Secretary said.

He added that Latin America and the Caribbean—where 8.6% of the world’s population lives—produces 12% of the planet’s oil, 9% of natural gas and 2% of coal, whereas it consumes 7% of global electricity.

“We are convinced that renewable energies, energy efficiency, infrastructure with a smaller environmental footprint and smart energy networks can and should be the answer to our region’s sustainable energy development,” Prado stressed.

Vittorio Corbo highlighted the importance of addressing the issue of energy in the region, particularly its cost and how to exploit cheaper and more environmentally friendly sources. Citing Chile as an example, where the cost of energy has affected the country’s competitiveness, he emphasized the need to support the introduction of unconventional renewable energy sources.

The seminar consists of five panels that will address topics such as energy storage and smarter grids for Latin America, the future of unconventional energy sources, the challenges for the region in transformational technologies, the political economy of energy, and the economics of climate change.

On the first panel, Donald Sadoway, MIT’s John F. Elliott Professor, explained the advantages of new energy storage technologies, such as the construction of more efficient batteries that allow for reducing costs and increasing power generation.

Salvatore Bernabei, General Manager for Enel Green Power, talked about existing projects on renewable sources in the region, whose development has already reached a maturation level that would enable them to be installed on a large scale. He detailed persisting barriers to achieving greater capacity for generation from these energy sources, among them problems related to cost and efficiency, appropriate international standards, the communication of their benefits, regulation and waste disposal.

“The availability of energy is the main thing that enables a community’s social and economic development,” Bernabei explained.

René Castro, Costa Rica’s former Minister of Environment and Energy, told of his country’s experience and how it expects to become a neutral carbon nation by 2021, which implies not only producing energy from renewable sources but also taking action for emissions reduction and compensation throughout the economy. “Countries cannot stop and await the results of university research. They must keep investing in energy to satisfy their demands,” he said.