Monday, July 11, 2016

Latin America’s water-energy nexus analyzed in regional dialogue held in Panama

On May 24-25 the OAS held the Regional Dialogue on Water-Energy Nexus in Panama City, Panama. The event co-hosted by the National Energy Secretariat (SNE) with the support of the U.S. Permanent Mission to the OAS and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) looked at best practices and regulatory frameworks for an integrated management of both resources.

Governments concurred on the value of the nexus approach, which links water and energy management as a means to protect ecosystems and lessen the pressure of human activities on natural resources. Discussants raised issues such as the considerable number of communities with limited or no access to basic water and electricity services, and the difficulties facing governments and society to cope with and overcome the aftermath of natural disasters.

OAS and IDB experts stressed the urgency to address water and energy management more comprehensively. Rising water scarcity hinders power generation, putting the sector in a vulnerable position. Climate change, population growth and migration flows are also affecting the energy sector. The experts noted that energy efficiency, new energy generation technologies, and enhanced water management techniques are available tools that can contribute to ameliorate the burden on stressed natural resources and provide better services to the people.

Central to these issues is the need to address water and energy through coordinated and comprehensive policies. Stronger governance, inter-sectorial planning, a more robust role of the state and the introduction of new technologies are all essential to sound water-energy policy. Finally, participants expressed that the energy sector is proficient at quantifying the economic value of its services, but that such proficiency is lacking with regard to the economic quantification of water services. The water sector must develop effective pricing schemes in order to create the funding stream required to improve services, protect the natural resources, and sustain technical and technological advances in water management.

Pairing metrology and energy efficiency to advance low carbon growth in the Americas

Pressure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has resulted in higher demand for renewable energy, lower energy consumption, integrated energy management and improved electricity distribution competences, all of which highlight the cross-cutting nature of energy efficiency given that it affects numerous stakeholders, sectors and institutions. However, most times energy efficiency is implemented in isolation and without a holistic approach.

With this in mind, on June 7-9, the OAS held a workshop to analyze energy efficiency standards and labels for appliances in San Jose, Costa Rica. The U.S. Permanent Mission to the OAS financed the event with the support of the Costa Rican Laboratory of Metrology and the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology. More than 50 experts and government officers from the seven SICA (Central American Integration System) member states attended the workshop.

The workshop convened under the ECPA umbrella seeks to enable the region in its development of policies and infrastructure for standardized energy efficiency and consumption measurements. Relevant actors from a wide spectrum of government were brought together under the same roof to discuss challenges and opportunities for coordination. The workshop contemplated raising political awareness vis-à-vis opportunities for energy efficiency in the context of SE4ALL and the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals, and assessing the role of regional metrology institutes in developing energy efficiency ratings (indexes).

Replicable models for energy-efficient schools and buildings implemented in three cities

The ECPA is supporting three pilot projects carried out in three municipalities—Valdivia, Chile; Goiania, Brazil; and Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago—geared toward developing energy efficiency practices and policies with the potential of being replicable in other cities in the region.

A team of Universidad Austral de Chile (UACh) recently conducted energy efficiency testing in a rural school outside Valdivia. Recommendations were issued on ways to reduce the school’s electricity bills. In this case, considerable efficiency was achieved by switching lighting fixtures to LED lamps, with a reported reduction in consumption in excess of 20%. This is the first school in the region illuminated exclusively with LED fixtures.

In Goiania, a team of experts is implementing three pilot projects under the ECPA umbrella to support a grant application with local electricity utility CELG. The objective is to use the ECPA project as a means to access CELG’s energy savings fund to finance the retrofits needed to increase energy efficiency. This experience has the potential to be replicable in other municipal buildings which would also receive support from CELG.

In Port-of-Spain, Florida International University (FIU) and local partner Energy Dynamics Limited (EDL) are implementing an energy efficiency project at the building of the Ministry of Energy. The objective is to lower electricity consumption by 10 to 15 percent through energy efficiency standards and policies. A similar approach is sought in approximately 400 municipal buildings in the island nation.

Sustainable Communities in Central America and the Caribbean Initiative convenes sixth and seventh course editions

The Department of Sustainable Development and the U.S. Permanent Mission to the OAS launched a technical assistance and competitive small-grants initiative to promote greater hemispheric cooperation for addressing the region’s challenges posed by rapid urbanization. The objective of this initiative is to strengthen the capacity of NGOs and community associations to build sustainable communities within the context of ECPA. Thus far, this initiative has supported 24 community-level demonstration projects in 10 countries, and has trained over 180 government officials and civil society representatives through sustainable cities courses. Santo Domingo and Guatemala City hosted the last two editions of said courses in April and May, respectively.

The 6th Edition of the Sustainable Cities Course was held in Santo Domingo, on April 5-8, in coordination with the National Energy Commission. Thirty-five government officials and civil society representatives attended this activity. The course covered urban sustainability, waste management and water resource management in an urban context, sustainable transport solutions and mobility, resilience to natural disasters, renewable energy and efficiency, and built environment and sustainability.

The following edition took place in Guatemala City on May 24-27. The course combined theory with practical exercises in which the students experienced the content of each module applied to real life situations through lectures, readings, and group exercises.