Central Andes c
Southern Cone d
ELECTRICI T Y GENERATION IN THE
AMERICAN HEMISPHERE - 2006
SHARE OF GENERATION
Fossil Thermal Nuclear
A: CARIBBEAN INCLUDES PUERTO RICO AND CUBA; B: NORTHERN TIER INCLUDES COLOMBIA, VENEZUELA AND THE GUYANAS; C: CENTRAL ANDES INCLUDES BOLIVIA, PERU
AND ECUADOR; D: SOUTHERN CONE INCLUDES ARGENTINA, CHILE, URUGUAY, AND PARAGUAY. E: TWH, OR TERAWATT HOUR, IS A UNIT OF ENERGY. SOURCE: BASED ON
DATABASE OF THE ENERGY INFORMATION ADMINISTRATION OF THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY.
The U.S. power system is dominated by fossil
fuels (coal and natural gas) that are responsible for
about 70 percent of its electricity generation. 1 Renewable sources, including conventional hydropower,
provide about 10 percent and nuclear power supplies
the remainder. The Canadian system, in contrast, is
dominated by hydro, together with a relatively large
share of nuclear power. Less than a quarter of power
output is from fossil fuels.
Latin America lies in between. On average, less
than 40 percent of energy generation is supplied from
fossil fuels. This is due primarily to the large share of
hydro, with small contributions from other renewable
sources and from nuclear power. However, there are
large regional disparities. Mexico and the Caribbean
are even more reliant on fossil fuels than the United
States. In sharp contrast, less than 10 percent of Brazil’s power output comes from fossil fuels, while generation in Colombia, Venezuela and the Guyanas is
also dominated by hydro [see table 1].
Dr. David Jhirad is the special advisor on energy
and climate change at the Rockefeller Foundation.
He served as deputy assistant secretary of energy in
the Clinton Administration and as vice president of
science and research at the World Resources Institute.
Alan Poole is an independent energy consultant
based in Washington DC and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
He has been working with issues of energy efficiency
and non-fossil energy supply for more than 35 years.
110 Americas Quarterly FALL 2009
In the U.S. and Canada, more than 70 percent
of the electricity generated from fossil fuels comes
from coal. In Latin America roughly 15 percent of
electricity generation is from coal, while most of the
rest is from natural gas. Indeed, the share of natural
gas for the U. S. and Latin America is similar— 20 percent versus 18 percent.
The U.S. and Canada have dominated power sector
expansion in the hemisphere and were responsible
for over two-thirds of growth between 1990 and 2006.
Today they are responsible for about four-fifths of the
power generated. But over the next two decades and
beyond, the economic development of Latin America
will result in a higher electricity growth rate. Depending on the vigor of economic growth, Latin America
may account for between 50 percent and 60 percent or
more of the growth in total hemispheric power requirements. As a consequence, how Latin America evolves
will be just as important, if not more important, than
the performance of the U.S. and Canada combined.
Wind, Sun and Water:
Moving Toward a Low-Carbon
Power Grid in the Americas
There are sufficient renewable resources of wind,
solar and hydro to drive toward a low- to zero-carbon
power grid in the Americas. The main candidates in
the shorter term are hydro and wind energy. There
are substantial undeveloped conventional hydro
resources in Latin America and, to a lesser extent, in
Canada. [see table 2]