„Foreign technologies are welcome here“

In Latin America, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS) is working with its own regional program to increase politicians’ awareness of the issues of energy security and climate change. According to program manager Dr. Christian Hübner, Germany can also benefit from these findings.

Dr. Christian Hübner (37) has headed the regional program “Energy Security and Climate Change in Latin America” of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS) since October 2014. Born in Mecklenburg, he works with his international team from a base in the Peruvian capital of Lima. The graduate economist had already worked for KAS before, as a coordinator for environmental, climate and energy policy in the European and International Cooperation Department in Berlin. His main focus is on the national and international analysis of the German energy transition policy, the geopolitics of renewable energy sources, blockchain governance and the economic analysis of climate policy instruments.

Dr. Hübner, the countries of Latin America have an area of 20 million square kilometers, twice the size of Europe. Why did KAS launch its regional program on energy security and climate change there? And how do you do justice to your mission in view of the continent’s size and the large number of countries?
Germany is pursuing an ambitious national and international sustainability policy that needs partners. Latin America, with its vast natural resources and the menacing effects of climate change in some regions, is a key partner region. We want to make a specific political contribution. It is not my ambition to be personally present in every country. In close cooperation with our national offices, we identify key political issues and temporarily select an appropriate target region such as the Pacific Alliance states, Central America or the G20 states.

How do you implement your regional program in practice, and how can its effects be measured?
By means of regional conferences, training courses in the form of seminars or webinars, delegation trips, publications of short dossiers and studies and the establishment of social media discussion platforms. We are also happy address new topics such as blockchain governance by means of design thinking workshops. However, personal discussions with the decision-makers are and remain particularly important. We try a lot, and sometimes something doesn’t work. Of course, we want to know that as soon as possible.

Are there differences in the willingness of individual countries to accept advice from the KAS?
That depends entirely on who we are talking to in the individual countries. In general, I experience a high level of receptiveness and curiosity, especially with regard to current developments in Germany and Europe. That opens a lot of doors. But of course, in countries where democratic development is complicated or becomes more complicated once again, it can be difficult. But even there, we always have or establish good communication channels.

How has the energy sector in the Latin American countries changed compared to the development Germany has undergone in recent years?
Basically, the expansion of renewable energy sources such as wind and photovoltaics is increasing against the background of global obligations such as the Paris Climate Agreement, but also in order to improve domestic energy security. Sustainable urban development is becoming increasingly important. There is already a high level of development in the areas of biomass and hydro power, but this is also being further improved. The effects of climate change in the form of melting glaciers and droughts require a rethink here. However, fossil fuels remain the dominant source in the overall view and could even gain in importance in some cases.

 

„I repeatedly find the Latin American spirit of pragmatism and optimism most astounding and extremely pleasant.“

 

 

In what respects are individual Latin American countries now ahead of Germany?
In contrast to Germany, many Latin American countries have relied on auctions for the use of wind and solar energy from the outset. The corresponding electricity prices are therefore also very low and are coming close to those of fossil fuels. Regrettably, Germany has only recently taken the step towards auctions.

STEAG has been active as an investor and operator of a power plant in Colombia for almost 20 years and the experience has been consistently good. How do you rate the interest in cooperation with foreign energy companies?

We involve business representatives in a large number of our events on Latin American energy policy. Against this background, I can only confirm a favorable view. Foreign investments, technologies and a general exchange of information on the energy industry are welcome here. Even in countries where the principles of the social market economy are not quite so pronounced, there is usually a great deal of interest.

Latin America is rich in natural resources – how important is climate policy? What are the differences between countries?
Those differences do exist, and the 2018 super-election year with elections in Mexico and Brazil, among other countries, is likely to reinforce this development. Mexico and Brazil could reduce their climate policy ambitions. Brazil is already taking this step. It has now become an oil exporter with the potential to overtake Venezuela. And Mexico wants to increase its security of energy supply and exploit domestic oil and gas reserves even more. At the same time, other countries such as Chile, Costa Rica and Uruguay are moving more and more in the direction of renewable energy sources, making them even more ambitious nations in terms of climate protection.

What do you think is the greatest energy and climate policy challenge facing Latin American countries in the future?
For those states which have extensive fossil energy resources, the development of the global oil price and the economic exploitation of shale gas, including its LNG shipping, will be important. This is reinforced by geopolitical developments triggered by the US government and the increasingly critical view of China’s involvement in the region. For countries with few fossil energy resources, the development of technologies such as networks, storage solutions, decentralization, and financial and legal frameworks for the use of energy from local renewable sources, especially in cities, will be crucial.

The institution KAS and you yourself come from the energy transition nation of Germany – does the 10,000 kilometer distance as the crow flies play a role?
Yes, the decision in favor of the energy transition and its implementation, including the associated difficulties – the keywords being the Coal Commission and Hambach Forest – are being followed closely here, and Germany’s importance in this respect must not be underestimated.

Which experiences can you contribute to Germany in return? I repeatedly find the Latin American spirit of pragmatism and optimism most astounding and extremely pleasant. Many circumstances here demand it, so to speak, but especially with a view to digitization Germany could benefit from taking some of it on. I have the impression that the network coverage here not only seems to be better than in Germany, but actually is.