President Barack Obama, during his March 2011 visit to Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador, highlighted the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA), the Central America Renewable Energy Forum (CAREF), and the Central American Electrical Interconnection System (SIEPAC from its acronym in Spanish). In El Salvador, President Obama commended the SIEPAC initiative to “connect grids in this region to make electricity more reliable.”
Jose W. Fernandez, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Economics, Energy, and Business Affairs, and the Council of the Americas co-hosted the third CAREF on June 20, 2011 in New York City, New York. Assistant Secretary Fernandez was joined by Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs Carlos Pascual and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Matthew Rooney as well as officials from the Department of Energy. Participants included energy ministers and other senior officials from Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Nicaragua, and the Central American Integration System (SICA), as well as officials from Brazil and Colombia. Participants also included private companies investing in the region, as well as the Organization of American States (OAS) and World Bank, which provide policy, regulatory, and technical assistance to strengthen Central American energy sectors, promote clean energy, reduce energy poverty, and to advance electrical interconnection.
CAREF participants discussed models of successful energy policy and regulatory reforms to increase the deployment and integration of renewable energy in national markets, as well as the Central American regional electricity market. The CAREF featured keynotes by World Bank Latin American and Caribbean Energy Sector Manager Philippe Benoit and former Chilean Energy Minister Marcelo Tokman. Benoit and Tokman shared their experience from public and private perspectives, and advised senior government officials and private stakeholders of ways to facilitate the uptake of renewable energy in power generation. Participants engaged in two moderated roundtable discussions that highlighted government roles in regulatory reform and ways to build synergies with private industry and investors. The U.S. Government and partners also discussed ongoing and future areas of collaboration in Central America. For more information about these programs, please see http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2011/06/166540.htm.
Leaders commended the Central American governments’ significant progress made toward completing the inter-connected transmission line among six Central American countries, as well as between Mexico and Guatemala. Leaders noted that while Central America will soon be interconnected electrically, markets are not yet integrated and encouraged further progress in the power sector integration effort, including harmonizing national electricity regulations with those of the Central American regional power market.
In support of ECPA, the CAREF brings together Central American energy ministers, representatives of Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and the United States, international organizations, development banks, and private companies to accelerate clean energy uptake in Central America. The first CAREF focused on innovation and occurred in Atlanta, GA in November 2010. The second CAREF focused on finance and investment and occurred in Washington, D.C. in March 2011. For more information about ECPA, please visit www.ecpamericas.org and www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/ecpa_factsheet.pdf.