Access to energy is critical to ensuring development in the world’s poorest countries; however, an estimated 1.5 billion people in developing countries have no such access. This problem is most severe in remote areas, where the majority of the population live without electricity. In such instances, access to even a small amount of electricity could lead to life-saving improvements in agricultural productivity, health, education, communications and access to clean water (Grimshaw & Lewis 2010). Almost all developing countries, including Latin America, have enormous solar power potential (WHO, UN Development Program 2009). What is unfortunate is that the countries that receive solar energy support are often also those least able to benefit from the development, due to a lack of knowledge and capacity to take advantage of the solar power and facilitate conversion to electricity (Grimshaw & Lewis 2010).
Renewable energy: Latin America and the Caribbean
In 2007, in Latin American and Caribbean countries, installed capacity for power generation grew at a yearly rate of 3.51 per cent – 0.29 per cent higher than the previous 10 years (OLADE 2007). Most of the region’s power was generated by hydroelectric plants (56.7 per cent) followed by thermoelectric (39.7 per cent). The countries with electricity coverage rates of over 96 per cent and are Chile, Costa Rica, Barbados, Uruguay, Brazil, Suriname and Venezuela, while those with the lowest coverage levels are Honduras (67 per cent) and Haiti (34 per cent) (OLADE 2007). Energy demand in the region has increased by an average of 35 per cent over the last decade and, despite the global recession, it is currently experiencing a positive flow of funding from investors.