Bioelectricity in Latin America and the Caribbean – opportunities for collaboration

This feature looks at the benefits of biomass resources for electricity generation in Latin America and the Caribbean, and provides background information on our newly launched Community of Practice, ‘Bioelectricity resource potential in member countries’.

The use of biomass resources for generating electricity can provide important social, economic, and environmental benefits. Applied appropriately, bioelectricity reduces generation costs and is a low emission and climate compatible alternative to fossil fuels. A distinct advantage of bioenergy systems is that they utilize by-products of other economic processes. As a result, carefully designed bioenergy systems can be integrated harmoniously, and indeed beneficially, with other productive economic activities. The energy potential of these systems in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) is tremendous.

However, this potential remains largely unmet in many LAC countries, where public and private bioenergy investments lack appropriate enabling legal frameworks, supportive policies and regulations, and transparent and uncomplicated administrative processes. To design and employ efficient bioelectricity policies, governments often lack access to quality data and tools that they can use to evaluate alternative bioelectricity development pathways.

Participants in the 4th LEDS GP Regional Platform Meeting for Latin America and the Caribbean expressed a great interest in the modern energy potential of biomass for electricity generation. The Energy Working Group has therefore collaborated closely with the Regional Platform for Latin America and the Caribbean (LEDS LAC) Secretariat to create a Community of Practice on bioelectricity.

Through extensive consultation with group members, we have expanded the coverage of the sessions to include other biomass feedstock resources (such as agricultural, waste-water, municipal waste, forestry residues etc). The Community of Practice brings together LAC government leaders in charge of the design and implementation of bioelectricity policies and programs, and provides tools for gathering and processing bioelectricity data as an input for smart decision-making. They will work jointly to address key questions such as:

  • How to assess a country’s bioelectricity potential
  • What technical challenges exist and how can they be addressed?
  • What will be the costs and benefits of alternate bioelectricity development pathways?
  • What support policies and measures exist, and how can they be integrated in the existing legal framework of a country?
  • How to create effective and cost-efficient administrative procedures
  • What do national and international commercial banks and public funders look for?
  • How to create an investment prospectus
  • How to design fundable and attractive NAMAs and INDCs

The LAC Bioelectricity Community of Practice is comprised of three online sessions that prepare the participant for a final in-person hands-on workshop. In between sessions, practitioners apply what they have learned to their individual country contexts and they then have the opportunity to discuss their results and collaborate on shared challenges with supporting experts across several online forums, including private Dropbox and LinkedIn groups.

The first session of the Community of Practice focused in specifically on best practices for assessing resource potentials of a variety of biomass feedstocks for electricity generation in participating countries. Read about it here.

If you want to know more, please get in touch with our Energy Working Group or LEDS LAC team.

Photo: Julio Pantoja / World Bank