Clean Energy as an “Engine for Integral Development”

Tuesday, March 26, 2024
The transition to clean energy not only will help the region tackle climate change; it will also spur investment, strengthen economies, and improve people’s lives, the Vice President of the Dominican Republic, Raquel Peña, said at the Sixth Ministerial Meeting of the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA).


“When the region takes advantage of its natural resources and clean energy potential, the economy grows, more jobs are created, and of course environmental protection improves, as does the quality of life of all citizens,” she said.

Speaking at the opening ceremony at the ECPA Ministerial Meeting—which took place on March 14-15 in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic—Peña stressed the importance of regional collaboration on energy issues.

“There has been more and more participation and interest in the energy transition in Latin America and the Caribbean because of the profound impact it has on our development model,” she told the energy ministers and other high-level officials from around the region gathered in Punta Cana.

“Energy is an engine for integral development,” she said. 

More than 700 people participated in the meeting, titled “Renewable Energy in the Americas: Integration and Innovation.” In addition to the plenary sessions for delegates, participants had the opportunity to choose from more than a dozen side events on topics as diverse as scaling up hydrogen financing, implementing the methane agenda in the region, decarbonizing the shipping industry, and making the region’s electricity infrastructure more resilient to natural hazards. 

Peña, who chairs the Electricity Sector Cabinet in the government of President Luis Abinader, talked about steps her country has taken in recent years to build solar and wind plants and rely on natural gas as a transition fuel.

As she arrives for the opening ceremony, the Vice President of the Dominican Republic, Raquel Peña, is greeted by the Minister of Energy and Mines, Antonio Almonte.

She noted that the Dominican Republic is one of four pilot countries—Chile, Nigeria, and the Philippines are the others—participating in the Energy Transition Accelerator, a carbon finance platform launched at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) late last year. The program, she said, will provide an opportunity to attract investment in initiatives to decarbonize the electricity sector, improve the transmission and distribution infrastructure, expand renewable energy, develop energy storage capability, and implement sound public policies for sustainable development.

The meeting’s host, Dominican Minister of Energy and Mines Antonio Almonte, said at the opening that the world is experiencing a “real technological revolution” on energy encompassing such aspects as critical minerals and energy storage systems. He said that countries must be able to attract more investment in clean energy and have access to affordable financing mechanisms.

Almonte also called for comprehensive, well-designed, and well-executed policies that consider the impacts of the energy transition on the most vulnerable segments of society. 

“For the Americas, it is essential to emphasize the need for a just transition, one that avoids exacerbating existing inequalities and that helps to correct them,” he said.

Energy has become a “critical” geopolitical issue in the Americas and around the globe, according to Foreign Minister Roberto Álvarez.

It was a point underscored as well by Foreign Minister Roberto Álvarez, who talked about the growing awareness—especially among the region’s youth—of the importance of a culture of sustainability and respect for the environment.

“The transition to renewable energy sources is not only a climate need, but also an economic opportunity and an imperative to reduce socioeconomic gaps,” he said.

Álvarez also pointed out that energy is becoming an increasingly important topic internationally and will be among the issues discussed at the Tenth Summit of the Americas, which the Dominican Republic is scheduled to host next year.

“The interconnection between energy, geopolitics, and diplomacy has never been as critical as it is in today’s world,” he said.


Multilateral Support


Representatives of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the World Bank, and the Organization of American States (OAS) also participated in the opening ceremony, offering their institutions’ support to make the energy transition a reality.

“Promoting clean and affordable energy is essential for social development, to combat climate change, and for industrial productivity,” said IDB Executive Vice President Jordan Schwartz.

He said the entire IDB Group—which includes the bank’s private-sector arm, IDB Invest, and its innovation and venture capital arm, IDB Lab—is working to help countries strengthen their regulatory frameworks and develop markets to encourage investment in clean energy.

Among specific examples, he pointed to the IDB’s support of an initiative called RELAC (Renewable Energy in Latin America and the Caribbean), which aims to increase the region’s already-high penetration of renewables, and another effort called CertHiLAC, which will create a certification system for clean hydrogen.

Schwartz said the IDB has also worked with 15 countries and 14 cities in the region to develop comprehensive plans for electric mobility, and is helping 16 governments strengthen regulations in the mining sector, given the importance of minerals such as copper and lithium to the clean energy transition. IDB Invest and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank, have jointly provided major financing to a lithium mining project in Argentina, he noted.

The Inter-American Development Bank has been working with countries and cities across the region to support the energy transition, according to IDB Executive Vice President Jordan Schwartz.

Meanwhile, Lilia Burunciuc, who heads the World Bank’s Caribbean operations, talked about some of the challenges involved in implementing the clean energy transition in the region’s small island states, which still depend heavily on imported fossil fuels for electricity generation.

“This has immediate consequences for consumers, who face some of the highest energy prices globally,” she said. The adoption of renewable energy in the Caribbean has been slow, in part because of the upfront costs involved and “the big challenge of scale,” she said.

“Given the relatively small scale of investments in many Caribbean countries, transaction costs for private financiers can be prohibitively high,” she said, adding that greater regional collaboration will allow for standardization of documents and processes and help attract private capital. She said the World Bank is working on an initiative with the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank to spur investment in renewable energy projects.

While Caribbean countries should improve policies, regulations, and incentives to promote renewables, they should also keep in mind the gains they could make in other areas, according to Burunciuc.

“We should not forget energy efficiency, a really low-hanging fruit,” she said.

For his part, Gonzalo Koncke, Chief of Staff of OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, highlighted ECPA’s role over the past 15 years in enabling countries in the region to share experiences, exchange technology, facilitate investment, and maximize their comparative advantages.

The proposal to create ECPA came out of the Fifth Summit of the Americas—held in April 2009 in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago—as a way for countries to work together to face the significant challenges of the energy transition.

“The Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas promotes transformation toward energy sources and consumption practices that are sustainable, with the aim of strengthening the rights of the people of the Americas,” Koncke said.

In keeping with the OAS motto of “more rights for more people,” he said, it is important to give priority to providing access to electricity and clean cooking for the millions of people in the region who still lack these basic services.

“The Organization of American States is committed to work with governments and institutions in Latin America and the Caribbean to implement programs that improve access to energy, create employment, promote micro, small, and medium-size businesses, and strengthen local economies,” he said.

“The energy transition is a path that benefits everyone,” he added.

During their plenary sessions, the delegations discussed how to accelerate an energy transition that is clean, sustainable, renewable, and just, and held a dialogue with representatives of the private sector on how to rapidly deploy cleaner energy technologies and decarbonization strategies. They also looked at the progress made and challenges ahead for transforming the region’s development model in the context of the energy transition.

Minister Almonte of the host country poses with Chile’s Luis Felipe Andrés Ramos Barrera and Panama’s Rosilena Lindo Riggs after the signing of bilateral cooperation agreements.

In addition, the Dominican Republic signed memorandums of understanding with Chile and Panama to strengthen bilateral cooperation on issues related to energy security and climate change. Several countries also joined CertHiLAC, according to the Latin American Energy Organization (OLADE), which is working with the IDB on that initiative to promote clean hydrogen.

Cover Image: The EPCA Ministerial Meeting focused on the theme “Renewable Energy in the Americas: Integration and Innovation.