Summary In Latin America, energy efficiency and renewable energy offer great potential for reducing the negative effects of the ever-increasing rates of energy consumption associated with economic growth and the move towards more energy-intensive societal models. Despite over two decades of discussions aimed at giving energy efficiency and renewable energy more prominent positions in the energy policies of Latin American countries, little has been achieved so far. The fact that these issues have not been integrated into energy policies reflects, to a certain extent, a failure on the part of public policy making and international cooperation to incorporate sustainable patterns of development. One of the factors underlying this state of affairs has to do with the behaviour of society as a whole. This phenomenon has a number of different facets: (i) individual versus collective behaviour; (ii) a lack of political will on the part of Governments, which is often combined with a lack of knowledge, ideology, perceptions or a lack of public support and the predominance of a liberal economic doctrine that hampers sustainable development in the energy sector; (iii) the market power and dominance wielded by electricity, gas and oil companies; and (iv) changes in the organization of energy production chains, in conjunction with the introduction of pricing and fiscal policies applying to both electrical power and fuels that have various implications for energy efficiency and the market penetration of renewable energy.