The Way Forward For Renewable Energy in Central America

The Way Forward For Renewable Energy in Central America Book Cover

Adam Dolezal, Ana Maria Majano, Alexander Ochs, and Ramon Palencia | June 2013

Central America is at a crossroads. As the economies of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama expand, regional use of fossil fuels for transportation and electricity generation is on the rise, while the use of fuelwood, primarily for cooking, continues to be unsustainably high. These developments come at the price of rising greenhouse gas emissions, worsening air and water pollution, and significant health and societal costs.

Central American countries have committed to sustainable energydevelopment to varying degrees; Costa Rica, for example, is leading the world in its ambition to be “carbon neutral” by 2021, with energy as an important element. The region, long a frontrunner in hydropower and geothermal energy, is exploring its potential for expanding these technologies in a more sustainable manner while also developing other renewable energy resources such as wind, solar, biofuels, and agricultural waste.

Still, powerful financial barriers remain, ranging from the unavailability of capital and the lack of human expertise, to investment insecurity and costly administrative processes. On the policy side, while many countries have set ambitious goals for sustainable energy development, these visions often lack details, obligations, and concrete measures for implementation. Where concrete policies and measures do exist, they often do not work properly, are not fully implemented, and/or compete with counterproductive instruments that encourage conventional, dirty energy practices.

About Adam Dolezal:

Adam Dolezal is Research Associate and Project Manager ofthe Central America Sustainable Energy Initiative at the Worldwatch Institute. Prior to Worldwatch, he was a roject manager and business development consultant for Lighthouse Solar in Washington, D.C. Dolezal has studied and worked in Latin America for over 10 years in different capacities. He has a B.A. in International Affairs with a focus on Latin America (Fort Lewis College), an M.A. in Philosophy and Social Anthropology with an emphasis in post-colonial studies (California Institute of Integral Studies), and an M.A. in Human Rights and International Environmental Law (University of London, SOAS).

About Ana Maria Majano:

Ana Maria Majano is Associate Director of the Latin American Center for Competitiveness and Sustainable Development (CLACDS) at INCAE Business School in Costa Rica. She holds M.A. and Ph.D degrees in Economics from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, which she attended as a Fulbright Scholar. Dr. Majano has worked for INCAE in different capacities—both as a consultant and as a member of the executive staff—since 2002. Previously, she occupied high-level positions in public and private sector organizations in her native El Salvador. She has also been a university instructor and an independent consultant for several international organizations. Her main areas of work are energy, environment, and regulatory analysis.

About Alexander Ochs:

Alexander Ochs is Director of Climate and Energy at the Worldwatch Institute, where he leads a growing team of researchers, is a member of the Institute’s management team, and is chief editor of the ReVol t blog. The co-editor of three books, author of numerous scholarly articles, and a frequent contributor to public media, he also serves as President of the Forum for Atlantic Climate and Energy Talks (FACET), senior fellow at the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies at Johns Hopkins University, and adjunct lecturer at George Washington University. Ochs studied at the Universities of Cologne and Munich where he graduated with an M.A. in political science, philosophy, and literature. He held senior research and teaching positions at the Center for Clean Air Policy and the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), as well as at the City University of New York (CUNY) and Princeton, Freie, and Humboldt universities. Ochs has been on many international advisory boards and was a member of the German delegation to the United Nations climate negotiations, an Aspen Institute Young Leader, and an elected member of tt-30. He currently serves as Energy Chair and member of the Steering Committee of the Low Emissions Development Global Partnership (LEDS-GP). In 2011, he received the Sustainable Future Award of the Austrian Academic Forum for Foreign Affairs.

About Ramon Palencia:

Ramon Palencia is Central America Research Fellow in the Worldwatch Institute’s Climate and Energy department. Previously, he managed the development and implementation of sustainability strategies for the private sector and served as Research Manager at TIYM Publishing Co., Inc. Palencia has traveled extensively in Latin America, learning about environmental issues and how to advance sustainability in the region. He holds an M.S. in Environmental Sciences and Policy from Johns Hopkins University.