Throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, governments and citizens recognize the importance of renewable energy sources for their economic, environmental and social benefits across the board. Reflecting this recognition, many international and regional organizations actively promote renewable energy from different perspectives in the Latin America and the Caribbean region. This situation has created the need, while at the same time offering the opportunity, to set up coordination mechanisms in order to promote investments in this field throughout the region.
Towards a Solution
In 2006, the Observatory for Renewable Energy for Latin America and the Caribbean was created as a coordination and integration tool for countries in the region to face this challenge. The aim is to ensure greater access to modern energy services and promote renewable energy technologies for productive uses and industrial applications. The Observatory strengthens the ability of governments to formulate and implement policies and strategies that promote the production and implementation of renewable energy technologies as a vehicle of prosperity for those most in need. It works in partnership with UNIDO, which has developed a series of outputs at the regional and national levels that focus on capacity-building, policy planning and the sharing of knowledge and best practices.
The Observatory, in collaboration with UNIDO, utilizes a knowledge platform to offer a regional network of expertise, technical assistance, best practices, experiences, skills and knowledge into which countries can tap to tackle their renewable energy challenges. Using this open source, private and public institutions in different countries continue to upload information on the platform, including more than 2,000 documents on renewable energy, financing regulatory frameworks and energy efficiency per country as well as reports on the state-of-the-art of renewable technologies, renewable energy baselines and financial scenarios of selected countries.
As part of its work to galvanize regional and global use of renewable energy, the Observatory provides knowledge from the public and private sectors to mobilize technical and financial resources. Through a variety of approaches (publishing technical reports, linking actors, fostering enabling policies, designing a portfolio of projects), it develops a pipeline of projects and programmes for renewable energy.
Since its beginnings, the Observatory and UNIDO have: (a) set up the main Internet portal, The Renewable Energy Information and Knowledge Sharing Portal, the Geo-Referenced Information System for Renewable Energy, and a mapping system on each countrys energy balance; (b) developed three technical reports per country on the state-of-the-art of renewable technologies, technology baseline reports and the financial scenarios; (c) published a bimonthly newsletter; (d) designed projects for each country that have had a strong impact in rural, isolated communities; and (e) set up the capacity-building programme offering cost-free learning in English, Spanish and Portuguese in seven e-learning modules: energy and climate change; small wind energy; biogas; small hydro energy; photovoltaic energy; solar thermal energy; and energy efficiency in buildings.
The courses have proven to be a novel approach to technical training in the region since there are limited middle to high-level courses with online certification in Portuguese and Spanish. The approach includes a marketing campaign with the Veduca e-learning portal and social media, especially Facebook, for regional users. Since launching in 2014, the courses have registered 123,333 students, and 171,726 users have visited the Observatory page, with 4,930,606 visualizations from 131 countries.
The initiative benefits from local participation, national financing, capacity-building, local and regional partnerships, resource mobilization and a communications approach that guarantee its uptake, assimilation and long-term sustainability. Scaling up and replication of the projects and programmes are in fact the main criteria for their selection. The expansion of the Observatory to the rest of the region is one of its principle aims, beginning with alliances and additional resources.
The Observatory partners include civil society, national energy authorities, private- and public-sector entities, and the Latin America Energy Organization, which provide technical expertise and knowledge. The Government of Italy provides funding while the Government of Spain and the Inter-American Development Bank provide both funding and technical expertise.