Latin, South America turning to renewable energy - Steven K. Paulson - AP

Latin, South America turning to renewable energy

Aug 11, 2010 - Steven K. Paulson - AP - Energy Central

Latin American and South American countries are turning to renewable energy and power sharing to serve their rapidly growing populations, taking advantage of equatorial sunshine and sprouting wind farms.

Colombian Ambassador Carolina Barco said Wednesday it's a quality-of-life issue for poorer Western Hemisphere countries to cope with soaring energy rates as demand increases.

Barco said one solution was to build an electricity grid for Panama and Colombia so they could share. A similar grid was set up in Mexico.

"There needs to be a grid so we can help each other. We need to think as a region how we can improve the way we can provide energy efficiency," she told a forum for energy and climate change in the Western Hemisphere.

They are also building natural gas pipelines across borders to share the energy wealth from countries like Venezuela.

Panamanian Ambassador Jaime Aleman said his country's population grew by 8 percent over the past five years and the only way the region can continue to meet energy demands is by energy-rich countries sharing with their neighbors.

"If there is a surplus, they can sell it to the grid," he said.

Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer said there is also an economic advantage for Western nations to work together, sharing energy and cutting costs. He said organizations like NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, can help negotiate issues like transmission lines and power sharing.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the demand for energy will continue to grow and renewable energy will play an increasing role.

LaHood said Americans are also calling for more sustainable transportation options, including bike paths, walking paths and light rail, while reducing dependence on automobiles and oil.

Enrique Penalosa, president of the Colombian Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, said some nations in the Western Hemisphere still have to rely on existing transportation, but improved techniques can carry 100 people at a time with special traffic lanes and special bus loading ramps that unload passengers in seconds.

"Buses are cheap," he said.