Energy Efficiency Powers Latin America’s Development

29 March 2016 | United Nations Environment Programme News Release

In most developing countries and emerging economies the demand for electricity is increasing rapidly. As urban middle classes worldwide rapidly grow in size and wealth, they adopt a lifestyle, which entails a significantly larger consumption of electricity, putting a strain on the struggling power supply chains, designed for more modest needs.Such is the case of Latin America and the Caribbean. In Paraguay, for example, the stock of domestic refrigerators is projected to double by 2030, while in Panama, the stock of air-conditioners is expected to increase by 400 per cent over the same period. In countries, where electricity is produced primarily from fossil fuels, these numbers mean a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

To mitigate these emissions and enable countries to cover the energy needs of their rapid economic development, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has created the Efficient Appliances and Equipments Partnership called United for Efficiency. This initiative helps to accelerate the transition to more efficient appliances and equipment, including lighting, air-conditioners, refrigerators, electric motors, ceiling fans and distribution transformers.Such a transition can reduce global electricity consumption by more than 10 per cent, saving US$ 350 billion annually in electricity bills and reducing global CO2 emissions by 1.25 billion tonnes a year. United for Efficiency is a public-private effort that brings together inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations, appliance and equipment manufacturers, utilities, and international development banks and financial institutions.

The partnership provides tailored assistance to governments for the development and implementation of national and regional strategies that ease the permanent transition to energy-efficient products.

Partners include the United Nations Development Programme, the International Copper Association, The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) and the Natural Resources Defense Council. The project builds on UNEP’s successful en.lighten initiative, a public-private partnership that counts 65 countries globally as partners committed to phasing out inefficient incandescent lamps by the end of 2016.

In Latin America alone, en.lighten activities have reduced electricity consumption by 2.4 gigawatt hours and energy costs by more than US$ 400 million. This reduced demand means an extra US$ 660 million does not have to be invested in new power generation plants and can be used for other vital development projects. The key to this success was a combination of minimum energy performance standards, energy labeling, product certification and the enforcement of regulations.

According to United for Efficiency, if all Latin American and Caribbean countries were to adopt and implement energy efficiency standards for refrigerators, air conditioners and ceiling fans that feature the best available technology, 140 terawatt hours of energy could be saved annually. This represents about 11 per cent of the region’s current electricity consumption. Greenhouse gas emissions could thus be reduced by 44 million tonnes, which is equivalent to taking 24 million passenger cars off the road.

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