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Switching to Sustainability


Emerging economies will account for more than 90 percent of new energy-generation capacity by 2035, and Latin America is no exception to this trend. In the last 40 years, the region’s primary energy demand has more than doubled. In a global environment of increasingly volatile fuel prices, emerging technologies, and climate-change impacts, the continued increase in demand presents challenges and opportunities to Latin America and the Caribbean. To manage the next phase of development, the region’s governments will need to develop new energy sources and pay more attention to sustainability. By some measures, Latin America is already ahead of the game. The region has a low carbon footprint due to the large share of hydropower in its energy mix. Hydropower can’t be expanded indefinitely, however, and proposed mega-dams in countries such as Chile and Brazil have generated protests from indigenous and environmental groups. Developing alternative forms of sustainable energy will require focused effort. Challenges include the inflexibility of the region’s grid systems, the difficulty of siting new transmission lines, and the political and technical problems inherent in serving politically disconnected and geographically remote populations. Using examples from Chile, the Caribbean, and Nicaragua, we present energy technology and policydesign tools being developed at UC Berkeley’s Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) that address Latin America’s sustainability and development needs. 

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