Clean Energy Innovation in Latin America

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In the wake of the COP21 global climate talks, governments must shift attention to how they will actually follow through on the commitments made in Paris. One concept is central to achieving that goal – innovation.

While the majority of clean energy technologies have been developed in the United States, Europe and Asia, Latin American countries would also benefit from expanding innovation to meet climate change mitigation goals and boost their economies, according to a new report by the Inter-American Dialogue and CAF- Development Bank of Latin America.

Latin American countries have pioneered technologies in certain niche areas, such as ethanol in Brazil, biodiesel in Mexico and ocean energy in Chile. The region boasts many highly qualified researchers and top-notch institutions that are developing promising new technologies. And its geography provides abundant natural potential for renewable energy. 

However, Latin America trails other regions across many indicators of innovation in energy and other sectors, filing fewer patents, investing less in technology R&D and receiving far lower royalties. It is crucial that the region focus on closing this clean energy innovation gap. Even the application of proven technologies developed elsewhere requires researchers to adapt solutions to local conditions. Innovation offers an opportunity for Latin America to boost economic growth and employment, increase foreign currency inflows through technology exports and licensing royalties, and transition their economies toward higher value products and services.

The report concludes that for Latin American countries to scale up clean energy innovation, they need to improve links between local researchers and international industry players, strengthen policies to increase domestic demand for indigenous clean energy technologies, and redirect public R&D spending toward engineering-based technology.

The report examines challenges and opportunities to clean energy technology development in Brazil, Mexico and Chile, which are among the Latin American countries with the greatest potential to expand research and commercialization in this sector.

Contact the Author

Lisa Viscidi, Program Director, Energy, Climate Change and Extractive Industries
lviscidi@thedialogue.org
202-463-2571
@lviscidi

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