ECPA IN ACTION: Countdown to Viña del Mar

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

It’s official: Energy ministers from around the region will gather in Viña del Mar, Chile, on September 7-8 for the Third Ministerial Meeting of the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA). Chilean President Michelle Bachelet invited all Member states of the Organization of American States (OAS) to participate, noting that “we share the same urgency to work toward a cleaner and more efficient and accessible energy that will enable us to take care of our environment and improve the quality of life for our citizens.”

In a video message to delegates attending a meeting of the OAS Inter-American Council for Integral Development (CIDI), held at OAS headquarters on March 28, Bachelet described the region as “privileged” in its store of renewable energy resources.

“In Chile alone, I can tell you that we have the region with the most solar radiation on the planet,” she said. “And each of you is also aware of the advantages every country has in terms of your natural energy resources.”

But, she added, to make the most of that potential, countries need to coordinate their efforts and “address the needs for infrastructure, innovation, and efficiency, as well as the challenges of regional integration, among other challenges that make up the pillars of ECPA.”

During the CIDI meeting, Chile’s Ambassador to the OAS, Juan Aníbal Barría, detailed some of the steps his country has taken on the energy front. A major increase in the percentage of renewables in its electricity mix—from 2 percent in 2008 to around 15 percent in 2016—has resulted in a major decrease in electricity prices, he said. “All this without the need to implement any type of subsidy,” he added.

Speaking on behalf of Chilean Energy Minister Andrés Rebolledo, who had been scheduled to attend the meeting but had to return to his country unexpectedly, Ambassador Barría stressed that each country has its own energy needs, priorities, and circumstances. But, he said, the countries in the region are ready to meet the shared challenges implied by the theme of the ministerial meeting: “Energy Transition in the Americas.”

“The final goal, to be sure, is the same: to move forward in transforming the energy model based on fossil fuels to one based on clean, renewable, and more efficient energy sources, again encouraging innovation and technology in energy sources of the future, maximizing efficiency in energy use, and reducing energy dependence, especially in those countries that lack conventional energy resources,” he said.

For his part, Ambassador Vince Henderson, Permanent Representative of Dominica to the OAS and Chair of CIDI, stressed the importance of taking concrete, practical steps to make the energy transition a reality. He urged Chile, as host of the ministerial meeting, to think about how other countries could benefit in practical terms from its own achievements, and urged the OAS General Secretariat to determine how it can best move from dialogue to action. “The OAS as an institution needs to define its role in this energy transition,” he said.

Before the ministerial meeting, Trinidad and Tobago will host a preparatory meeting where ECPA National Focal Points will lay out each country’s priorities and proposed actions. (See related story in this issue.)

Chile and Trinidad and Tobago are two of the seven countries on the ECPA Steering Committee; the others are Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Mexico, and the United States.

At the CIDI meeting, Beth Urbanas, Deputy Assistant Secretary in the U.S. Department of Energy, expressed the United States’ continued support of ECPA, and underscored “the commitment of the ECPA partners to not only identify and discuss regional energy challenges, but also lead on implementing solutions.”

Speaking for the members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Guyana’s Ambassador to the OAS, Riyad Insanally, described the work done through ECPA, with U.S. government support, as a “lifeline” to Caribbean countries hard-hit by natural disasters. In the Caribbean, he said, investments in disaster risk management and adaptation to climate change “are ‘no choice’ investments.”

“ECPA is helping us to design more healthy, livable, and functional cities; to build more sustainable energy pathways; and to strengthen our capacity to build circular economies,” Ambassador Insanally said. “CARICOM hopes this support will continue and that a true hemispheric cooperative effort on energy and climate will emerge from the Third Meeting of Ministers of ECPA in Chile.”

Mensaje de la Presidenta Michelle Bachelet sobre la III Reunión Ministerial de la ECPA from ECPA on Vimeo.