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Alternative Energy Development in Latin America

Ali Shakhtur, International Mining and Oil & Gas Law, Development, and Investment (2011)

Alternative energy simply means energy that is produced from sources other than our primary energy supply: fossil fuels. Coal, oil and natural gas are the three kinds of fossil fuels that we have mostly depended on for our energy needs, from home heating and electricity to fuel for our automobiles and mass transportation. The problem is, fossil fuels are non-renewable.1

The importance of renewable energy is indisputable. Developed countries and even oil & gas based economies are focusing and evidencing its importance. An example of this was the commitment reached by the G-20 leaders in 2009 (Pittsburgh Meeting) to rationalize and phase out over the medium term inefficient fossil-fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption (these subsidies totalized US$ 312 billion in 2009).2 Well known is also the commitment declared by the European Union to reach a 100 percent renewable energy supply by 2050.

In Latin America, renewable energy use raises to an impressive 30 percent of the total primary energy supply in comparison with the 6 percent share of renewables in the OECD countries (and the less than 1 percent in Middle East). But the numbers are not as good as they seem as generation is mostly dominated by large hydro generation plants and bio-fuel: the first heavily depending on the changing water levels (and particularly affected by droughts due to climate c