Within the framework of the United Nations Climate Change Conference taking place in the United Arab Emirates (COP28), 16 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean presented the most ambitious renewable energy climate initiative worldwide.
As world leaders seek to triple renewable energy generation capacity to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, in line with the Paris Agreement, 15 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean agreed to increase the participation of renewable energies in their electrical systems by 2030.
The global goal of tripling renewable energy, supported by the COP28 presidency, is emerging as a critical pillar in the collective path towards a net zero emissions future by 2050, recognizing that each region’s contribution cannot, nor should be, the same. These efforts are expected to trigger a transformation toward cleaner electricity systems, facilitate access to affordable energy, create millions of green jobs, and catalyze public and private investment to foster sustainable economic growth.
The role of RELAC in helping countries fulfill this commitment
The Renewable Initiative in Latin America and the Caribbean (RELAC) was launched as a climate action platform by three countries in the region in September 2019 to achieve a participation of at least 70% of renewable energy in the regional electricity matrix by 2030. In 2023, the platform already has 16 member countries and 15 partner agencies that help channel technical assistance and financing to cover the energy transition needs in these countries.
During the recent OLADE Energy Week, in Uruguay, RELAC member countries discussed the progress of the initiative and the key activities carried out during the year 2023, presented by the IDB in its role as Technical Secretariat. Likewise, the member countries received a detailed update report on the regional goal based on the commitments established in their own policies, including the current goals of the countries in RELAC and the electricity sector in the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), as well as the most recent national electricity generation expansion plans.
In line with these findings, the member countries of RELAC approved the Montevideo Declaration, which considers raising the goal of participation of renewable energies in the total installed capacity of electrical generation of the member countries from 70% to 73% by 2030. Also, member countries increased the goal of renewables participation in the total electricity generation from 70% to 80% for the same period.
This latest updated goal is 2.6 times greater than the average participation of renewables in electrical systems globally by 2022. Also, It would continue to be 1.6 times greater than the same global average by 2030, according to the most conservative scenario of the International Energy Agency in its most recent prospective study. The latest updated goal clearly shows this regional initiative’s high ambition level.
Furthermore, as part of the same Montevideo Declaration, a new regional goal was proposed to achieve a participation of at least 36% of renewable energies in the total energy supply by 2030, an indicative and voluntary goal that will be monitored through the OLADE Renewability Index of the Total Energy Supply (IROTE). This new approach and the updated RELAC goals will contribute significantly to the global goal of tripling renewables. They will reinforce the leadership of Latin America and the Caribbean in the energy transition process. The new indicator also contributes to aligning regional efforts with the Sustainable Development Goal corresponding to Sustainable Energy (SDG 7.2), which implies a substantial increase in renewable energy in total final energy consumption by 2030.
Next steps to achieve climate commitments
Setting goals is an essential first step in any energy policy focused on sustainability. But even more important will be its implementation, which will require significant efforts to finance these new renewable electricity generation infrastructures. The good news is that the savings will offset these new investments thanks to reducing the operating costs of fossil fuel plants due to their retirement or stopping to build them. In the case of RELAC countries, achieving at least 80% renewable generation by 2030 would represent an annual net benefit of 1 billion dollars on average.
These agreements and debates reaffirm RELAC’s position as a reference initiative in promoting regional goals for developing renewable energy and a crucial platform to provide support and technical assistance to member countries, essential for effectively achieving the regional and global goals approved during COP28. Thus, RELAC will remain vital in aligning regional efforts with global objectives, ensuring an energy transition that responds to local needs and international environmental priorities.