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Energy Efficiency Strategies Are Urgently Needed to Improve Competitiveness of Region's Ports

2 June 2014|News

According to a recent study by ECLAC, the traffic of refrigerated containers has increased considerably in recent years, leading to higher energy consumption at terminals.


photo of a port
Photo: Ricardo Maldonado/EFE

More than 95% of South America's exports is moved through ports. Therefore, the energy consumption of the port infrastructure is increasingly relevant to the competitiveness and sustainability of infrastructure services and the activities of the transport and logistics sector.

This point is emphasized in a report by ECLAC's Natural Resources and Infrastructure Division that was published recently in the latest edition of the FAL Bulletin on Facilitation of Transport and Trade in Latin America.

According to the study, the traffic of refrigerated containers with perishable goods in South American ports has grown considerably in recent years, especially as a result of increased South-South trade, which has led to rising energy consumption at terminals. This greater consumption puts energy security at risk and raises questions regarding policies for this sector and their associated costs.

The report says that in recent years the energy consumption of Latin America's transport sector surpassed 2.0 billion tons of oil equivalent, representing one third of the regional energy matrix. At the same time, this sector's average energy consumption increased from 27% of the total in 1990 to 35% in 2010.

The analysis revealed that on average 70% of the energy used in Latin American ports is currently generated from fossil fuels and the remaining 30% comes from electricity. In this sense, the existing trend in the sector towards total electrification of port operations must be planned in conjunction with the energy sector.

Meanwhile, the movement of containers in the region's ports grew from 10.4 million units (TEUs) in 1997 to 43 million in 2012. "As a result, reefer trade puts extra pressure on efficient energy consumption, in addition to the energy required for regular port activities and operations," the study says.

ECLAC's report presents a comparative analysis of energy consumption in the container ports of South America to identify the main sources of consumption and set a benchmark for terminals. The research was based on surveys in 13 ports of the Southern Cone, belonging to Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay, which correspond to 70% of the container movement in the Southern Cone.

The report proposes a six-point action plan in the search for energy efficient solutions for ports, in order to improve their competiveness and increase their energy security and their contribution to combating climate change.

These areas are: the installation of energy monitoring systems to measure consumption; clearly identify their sources of energy consumption; formulate an energy efficiency and consumption reduction plan; implement in a coordinated way energy efficiency measures and strategies; obtain energy efficiency certificates; and formulate a long-term sustainable growth strategy that takes future energy needs into account.

To discuss these matters, international experts met recently with port and energy industry officials from the Southern Cone at ECLAC's headquarters in Santiago, Chile, for the seminar "Energy Consumption and Efficiency: Emerging Challenges from Reefer Trade in South American Container Terminals."

At the event, the participants analyzed the importance of and opportunities for energy efficiency in the region's ports and its benefits in terms of productivity, sustainability and profitability.

More information available at: ECLAC's website.