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Planning for a Sustainable Future: Energy Experts in Latin America and Caribbean Analyse Future Demand, with IAEA Support


As the population of Latin America and the Caribbean is expected to grow 85% by 2050, a corresponding growth in energy demand is anticipated. (Photo: C. Sanchiz/Flickr)

Energy planners in 15 Latin America and Caribbean countries gathered virtually from 25 to 29 January to evaluate their national needs for the next 30 years using the IAEA’s Model for Analysis of Energy Demand (MAED), and to jointly analyse the implications of growing electricity demand at a regional level. 

According to UN estimates, Latin America and the Caribbean will be home to more than 750 million inhabitants by 2050, a 16 per cent increase from today’s population. To help anticipate and prepare to accommodate the region’s growing energy demand, IAEA and international experts organized a workshop in January 2021 to demonstrate how MAED, as well as the Agency’s other energy modelling tools, can be used to assess demand scenarios and plan accordingly.

“Energy planning plays an essential role in influencing decision-making, particularly as it relates to sustainable energy development in the region,” said Luis Longoria, Director of the IAEA’s Technical Cooperation (TC) Division for Latin America and the Caribbean. “In order to support transition towards a low-carbon future, the IAEA routinely delivers training in the use of its energy planning tools through the TC programme[1].”

Mapping energy needs into the future

Energy planning and analysis will be essential in the clean energy transition, and the IAEA’s energy modelling tools apply to all energy systems, regardless of whether or not they include nuclear power. The MAED model is designed to help policy makers to evaluate future energy demand based on medium- to long-term scenarios. These scenarios allow experts to consider the effects of both large and small factors, from the type of electrical appliances used in households to the introduction of public transportation options, as well as changes in technology and lifestyle.

With the benefit of regional planning and cross-border integration, energy planners can prioritize sustainable sources of energy and increase resource efficiencies across Latin America and the Caribbean.

The IAEA offers a number of practical solutions for energy planning, including energy modelling tools that enable countries to make smart energy choices today in advance of changing energy demands in the future. (Photo: IAEA)

Whereas events organized under earlier projects in the region focused on the development of national and subregional energy supply and demand studies, the January 2021 workshop began by analysing energy demand across all 15 participating countries to better understand possible and desirable future energy pathways.

“MAED equips energy experts with a detailed understanding of energy use at a consumer level, which is extremely beneficial when evaluating existing measures or designing new policies or identifying priority areas for energy savings,” said Loreta Stankeviciute, an Energy Systems Analyst at the IAEA.

The national experts discussed the impacts of COVID-19 on the usage of energy and explored a number of policy measures to efficiently respond to growing energy needs, such as the introduction of more efficient light bulbs, cleaner and more efficient cooking devices or a wider selection of public transportation options. These and other measures must be taken into account when estimating the volumes and the types of energies needed in the future.

Experts from the International Energy Agency (IEA), who also attended the meeting, highlighted the importance of high-quality energy and activity end-use data for demand-side modelling. “Specific end-use indicators can help track progress, but might face significant data requirements,” said IEA energy data manager Víctor García Tapia. “Collecting data is costly but enables the improved design, monitoring and evaluation of policy. Not having proper data could lead to incorrect decisions and actions, and as a consequence, to even higher costs.”

“By assessing energy demand on the basis of both national policy measures aligned with regional sustainable development goals, we expect to uncover quantifiable potential for energy savings and for GHG emissions reductions in these 15 countries of the region,” said Stankeviciute.

Participants at the meeting included knowledge sharing with representatives from the Latin American Energy Organization (OLADE) and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL), both of which are studying energy development pathways to provide evidence-based information for designing plans and policies in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.

Alfonso Bonillo Blanco, Executive Director of OLADE, presented an overview of energy outlooks in Latin America, and Ruben Contreras, CEPAL Economic Affairs Officer, provided further insights into CEPAL’s regional programme for energy efficiency indicators, which facilitate the evaluation, analysis and comparison of energy efficiency policies among the participating countries of the region.

[1]RLA2017, ‘Supporting the Preparation of Sustainable Energy Development Plans at a Regional Level (ARCAL CLXVI)’

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