Past Initiative News

Guatemala pursues biofuel strategy with support from the OAS

Friday, February 28, 2014

Guatemala’s biofuels potential may soon be realized as the country continues to move towards a more sustainable economy. Under the leadership of the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) and in collaboration with the OAS-SEDI Department of Sustainable Development (DSD), the workshop “Biofuels in Guatemala: Challenges and Next Steps” was held on February 12, 2014, as a new step taken by the country to consolidate the development, implementation and monitoring of a national plan of action on biofuels.

Over 120 participants from the public and private sectors and academia gathered in this dialogue on the implementation of green fuels in Guatemala. High level government representatives participated, including the Minister of Energy and Mines, Erick Archila Dehesa, who called biofuels “a matter of energy security for Guatemala” and Deputy Minister of Sustainable Development, Ivanova Ancheta, who pointed out the usefulness of “establishing short, medium and long term goals to enable the friendly and sustainable development of the production and use of ethanol in the country”, which is part of the 2013-2027 Energy Policy.

Strategic actors participated in representation of the private sector, including the President of Guatemala’s oil and fuel importers and the President of the Association of Vehicle Importers of Guatemala. Academia was represented by the Universities del Valle de Guatemala, Francisco Marroquin and Landívar.

The discussion soon focused on ethanol, a biofuel mostly derived from sugar cane. “The workshop was fundamental to strengthen the perception of all actors on the benefits of ethanol, and also to gain awareness of the country’s own production and potential” said Milagro Martinez Torres-Chico, OAS Representative in Guatemala.

Participating experts said that Guatemala has a unique competitive advantage as it currently produces enough ethanol to meet the local market. Production of ethanol is currently 265 million liters, most of which is exported to Europe. “10% of current ethanol production could meet 100% of the demand for blended gasoline with up to 10% of ethanol, so it is not necessary to invest in increased production” said Ruben Contreras, Specialist from the OAS-SEDI-DSD.

Experts from Brazil and Colombia presented the experience of their countries, highlighting the impact observed at the social, economic and environmental levels. Flavio Castelar, Executive Director of APLA, the Brazilian Ethanol Cluster, said that after nearly 40 years of investment in the sector, Brazil is the world’s pioneer in the use of biofuels, and now derives about 45% of energy and 19% of fuels from renewable sources, while the rest of the world only derives 14% of its energy from renewable sources. Mr. Castelar pointed out that the sector generates more than 720,000 direct jobs and 200,000 indirect jobs in the rural area of ??his country.

Meanwhile, Carlos Mateus, expert from the National Biofuels Federation of Colombia presented the results of recent studies, which indicate that “In Colombia, the current installed capacity for the production of biofuels is equivalent to discovering a field capable of producing 420 million barrels of oil every 20 years, without becoming depleted” he continued noting that “biofuels are the only reliable source for maintaining and growing – not depleting – strategic reserves of liquid fuels. In addition, he noted that it is estimated that Colombian ethanol reduces emissions of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) by at least 74%.

During the workshop, the government announced that a pilot project will be implemented in 2014 with the support of the OAS-SEDI-DSD for blending ethanol with gasoline in a fleet of public and private vehicles. The pilot, which will be supported by an awareness campaign run by the Government, will consist of selecting vehicles of different makes and models and incorporating a mixture of ethanol fuel, helping to reduce environmental pollution and informing future efforts in this area.

The OAS has been working with Guatemala since the end of 2008, supporting the country in the development of technical studies of soil, climate and sugarcane, along with impact and sustainability assessments on the use of biofuels. In 2011 the organization began the process of supporting the development of institutional, technical and legal capabilities of the public and private sectors, in order to raise awareness of the importance of the issue and of its socio- economic benefits.

The work undertaken in Guatemala by the Department of Sustainable Development (DSD) of the OAS-SEDI is part of the efforts to support the implementation of an agreement signed in 2007 by the governments of the United States and Brazil to promote the establishment of programs and projects for sustainable bioenergy in the region, therefore contributing to diversify energy sources and improve economic sustainability and competitiveness.

Dialogue in Action: the legislature considers measures to boost biofuels

Dialogue in Action: the legislature considers measures to boost biofuelsAs follow-up to the workshop, a strategic meeting was held on February 13 between the legislative and the executive branch, with the participation of 12 Honorable Congressmen of Guatemala, the Minister of Energy and Mines, the Deputy Minister of Sustainable Development and invited experts from Brazil, Colombia and the OAS.

The meeting provided an opportunity to present the concrete experiences of other countries and explore the necessary progress in the legal framework to promote biofuels. As a result, Congressmen indicated that they would propose to repeal Act 17/85, which was identified by the OAS in its studies as the biggest obstacle to introducing the use of ethanol in Guatemala.