Costa Rica Builds a Renewable, Self-sufficient and Participatory Energy Policy

Thursday, February 26, 2015

In September 2014 Costa Rica began a National Energy Dialogue process geared toward fostering diverse and participatory debate with all stakeholders actively engaged in the sector in order to establish guidelines for the short-, medium- and long-term national energy agenda. As the nation’s governing body of environment and energy, the Ministry of Environment and Energy led this process and ensured adequate citizenship participation in governance.

This initiative, which was initially limited to the issue of electricity, has gathered the will of key public and private sector stakeholders, regulators, academicians, community leaders and social entrepreneurs seeking to innovate in the way in which the country’s public energy policy has been historically developed. The second energy dialogue will take place during the first quarter of 2015 and will include transportation and liquid fuel topics.

Electricity Dialogue

Three forums­¾two regional and one legislative¾and roundtables on energy efficiency, distributed generation, optimized energy matrix and socio-environmental topics served as platform for civil society to contribute to and build a path toward greater sustainability in the electricity sector.

To promote an energy model for sustainable development, for the first dialogue the leading Ministry provided a background document with a strategic management and planning approach called “Proposal for the development of the VII National Energy Plan Electricity Component 2014 – 2030”. The document lays out a number of specific strategies for this subsector.

In terms of energy efficiency, the core strategy aims to encourage the funding of programs and the acquisition of energy-efficient equipment, and to deploy promotional campaigns on energy efficiency and savings. On the issue of generation, actions are geared towards boosting a system based on renewable, conventional and non-conventional energy.

These actions also seek to strengthen coordination efforts between the Ministry and the governing political divisions within the Government. The goal is to develop the legal reforms needed to implement an effective national policy, primarily in the areas of distributed generation and the use of geothermal, wind and solar resources.

Another strategy is to increase the use of renewable energy, thereby mitigating the effects of climate change, reducing oil dependency, and curbing energy costs and environmental pollution typically derived from thermal plants.

For the upcoming dialogue on Energy and Fuels for Transport, the Ministry will provide a proposal prepared by the government highlighting the most important aspects to develop a cleaner public transport system with adequate fuel supply. In Costa Rica the transport sector is the largest energy consumer, and therefore responsible for a third of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; hence the importance of implementing immediate actions to achieve the goal of carbon neutrality by 2021.

The proposed government strategies, along with the contributions of the sectors that have been actively engaged in this process, will end this year with the preparation of the VII National Energy Plan.

National Energy Plan

The ultimate goal is to develop a truly inclusive and representative public policy with the engagement of all stakeholders, in order to jointly build an energy model aimed to ensure high-quality universal coverage and fair rates that are consistent with the environmental sustainability objectives chosen by the country. The plan also aims to reduce vulnerability to climate change and, above all, to build a robust model where social development is the cornerstone.

The challenge is to build a national collective energy policy where government and civil society use resources responsibly, through a transparent and integrated common vision.

The next 30 years of Costa Rica’s energy policy will be the result of this collective effort built by citizens, academia, entrepreneurs, environmentalists, communities, utilities, distributors, local governments, indigenous people, political parties, parliamentary factions, professional organizations, unions and organized civil society groups, which were challenged to jointly develop the Seventh National Energy Plan for Costa Rica.