Increasing Access to Affordable Electricity Across the Hemisphere

Posted by Roberta Jacobson
September 28, 2012
Secretary Clinton at Connecting Americas 2022 Event in New York

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.



Ashim C.
September 30, 2012

Ashim C. in India writes:

This article indicates that US realises that power is an important element of economic diplomacy for it. But as an Indian one thinks that US does not follow energy and power sector business in foreign policy formulations and dispensations with same amount of fervour everywhere even though - for instance - countries like India FDI policies for power sectors is openly very liberal and foreigners entry into it is virtually comtroversy free with the sole exception of atomic power sector. The only bottleneck is that policies still encourage power sectors FDI to have a certain percentage of Indian participation in the the business.

In a situation where Indian companies are investing in Europe and North America, it is generally true that Indians now enjoy level playing field therefore they no longer require policy support to piggy ride on foreiners in most sectors from the point of view of common people. Such policies guide investments in most sectors in varying degrees and is thwarting growth and competition. From last two decades of experience with liberalisation, it is easy to proove that wherever competition has materialised in real measure and monopoly and oligopoly has ended, prices have levelled out. Power tariff is a strong driver of inflation in India. State and private sector oligopoly must end here and now and if poosible in other sectors including the infrastructure sector with just one rider that 30% or some thing like that of the profit earned must be ploughed back as investment in India before profit repatriation.

US diplomacy should use power sector companies of USA to export power technologies, plants and equipments and explain how efficiencies of their technology would impact quality of power supply and tariff rates if policies are made freer than they are now by citing examples from third world countries as to how they have benefited. That will create an enabling environment for Governments to further open up all but few sensitive sectors. Similar pattern can be followed in other sectors.


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