Yesterday, I had the pleasure of participating in a meeting with Secretary Clinton that she co-hosted with Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Ángela Holguin to advance Connecting the Americas 2022 (Connect 2022), the newest initiative under the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas. The meeting included many foreign ministers from the Western Hemisphere and focused on how Connect 2022 aims to increase energy access to citizens across our hemisphere.
More than 31 million people in the Western Hemisphere lack access to affordable, reliable energy services. Compared to the rest of the world, the Americas has high rates of electricity access, but far too many of our citizens are still without. Students lack light in classrooms and must sacrifice their education, small businesses struggle to get off the ground, and patients requiring critical care in hospitals are vulnerable. Reliable sources of electricity are vital to the economic and social development of the region.
Under the Connect 2022 initiative, governments, multinational institutions such as the World Bank, and the private sector are working together to increase electricity interconnections between countries. Electrical interconnection will lower the costs of power for consumers, expand service to more individuals, and expand markets for renewable energy, which not only protects our environment, but also increases our energy security by providing more local resources and reducing our dependence on imported oil.
Secretary Clinton said it perfectly during our meeting yesterday, "...Connecting the Americas is good for everybody and it will increase the economic pie by bringing more people reliable, affordable, electric resources."
Like many multilateral initiatives, Connect 2022 is a complex undertaking -- a task that will require cooperation and coordination among all of the parties involved. We are starting our work by looking at the laws that govern electricity in each of the distinct sub-regions -- from the Andes to Patagonia, the islands of the Caribbean and the Central American isthmus to Canada -- making sure these rules are compatible is the key to making this effort successful. Later this month, Ambassador Carlos Pascual, who leads the Bureau of Energy Resources at the State Department, will represent the United States at the Caribbean Renewable Energy Forum, where he will meet with ministers and the private sector to discuss these issues.
We have a lot of work ahead of us to meet the goal of universal access to electricity by 2022 in this hemisphere. But ultimately, this effort will "vale la pena" -- certainly be worth it -- if we are able to secure a reliable energy future not only for us, but also for the next generation of our hemisphere's citizens.