About the Author: Richard Simmons is an American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow in the Bureau of Economic, Energy and Business Affairs.
We are in Atlanta today at the Americas Competitiveness Forum (ACF) with foreign dignitaries and ministers, as well as a wide array of private sector stakeholders throughout the Western Hemisphere. El Salvador's President Fuenes spoke to attendees, along with Panama's Minister of Energy Juan Urriola, Nicaraga's Minister of Energy Emilio Rappacciolli, and El Salvador's Economic Minister Hector Dada. The ACF program to advance the region's economic competitiveness has focused on innovation, entrepreneurship, education, and green technology. The Department of State is partnering with other U.S. government agencies to advance several key multi-sector initiatives, such as the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas and the National Export Initiative.
This afternoon, Assistant Secretary of Economic, Energy and Business Affairs Jose Fernandez launched the inaugural U.S.-Central America Renewable Energy Forum (U.S.-CAREF), a roundtable discussion to promote greater regional cooperation on accelerating deployment of cleaner forms of energy. Central America already derives nearly 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources such as hydro, wind, and geothermal energy, although all countries would benefit from an even greater share. The CAREF dialogue engaged private companies, foreign governments, and U.S. government agencies to offer perspectives and to share both lessons learned and obstacles to overcome in addressing this goal. Initiatives like the CAREF have used the ACF venue to discuss practical efforts to overcome policy, regulatory, and technical challenges, with an eye toward implementation by innovative companies.
Participants raised a few thought-provoking points, including a look at how countries can further diversify their energy matrix to include more renewables, how large investment costs for clean energy can be financed and implemented, how countries can cooperate to integrate their electricity grids, and what governments can do to develop creative but realistic policies that encourage more adoption of clean energy.
The CAREF makes it clear that renewable energy has a bright future in Central America, and the impressive turnout reinforces the timeliness of such initiatives. The United States is actively seeking global energy solutions that will provide business opportunities for the private sector in renewable energy, economic growth potential, and enhanced competitiveness for the Americas, opportunities to improve cross-border sharing and access to affordable energy supplies, reduced reliance on foreign oil, and environmental benefits associated with lower carbon energy generation.
You can follow Assistant Secretary Fernandez's visit to Atlanta on Facebook to learn more about the CAREF and other ongoing initiatives.