Solar Thermal Energy Potential in Latin America and the Caribbean

Experts and leaders from across Latin America and the Caribbean gathered in San Jose, Costa Rica today to increase the development of solar thermal energy in the region. The two-day forum, co-organized by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the Latin America Energy Organization (OLADE), the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE), and the German Metrology Institute (PTB), aims to bring together experts to support the implementation of quality assurance mechanisms to increase confidence in the technology and spur development.

The Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region has substantial untapped solar thermal potential for both residential and commercial applications, but experience shows that enhanced trust in the technology is vital for its development.

Dolf Gielen, IRENA Innovation and Technology Centre Director said, “Less than three per cent of the solar thermal potential in the LAC region is used today, but the deployment of better quality assurance mechanisms can result in major market growth. This unique forum brings together key players from the region to share best practices and implement quality assurance mechanisms for solar water heaters in the region.”

Jorge Asturias, OLADE Studies and Projects Director said “The LAC region has only implemented small amounts of solar technology for the electrification of isolated areas where the deployment of networks and other generation technologies have high development costs. But in recent years, we have witnessed major generation projects in the region, thanks to the political, economic and environmental boost to the expansion of the water heating market.”

Alexis Valqui, PTB Head of Technical Cooperation in LAC said, “Improved quality assurance capabilities are vital to promote the use of solar thermal energy in the LAC region. Adequate standards, testing, labelling and certification increase the trust that investors and consumers place in this technology, and can lead to significant market expansion when matched with appropriate government policies. This is what makes an event like this so important, inviting interested stakeholders from all relevant parties.”

The event, titled Forum on international experiences in developing regional quality assurance schemes for solar water heating, includes sessions on standards, testing, labelling and certification and using quality infrastructure to support policy. Working groups will also enable participants to collaborate, share best-practices and develop partnerships for future work.

Luis Pacheco Morgan, ICE’s Electricity Sector Manager said, “Thanks to the experience of the many organizations involved in this forum, both Costa Rica and the LAC region will have the opportunity to develop strong quality assurance methods based on best international practice to increase our deployment and use of sustainable of solar thermal energy.”

To further aid in this effort, IRENA will release an in-depth study on how to develop quality infrastructure for solar water heaters in the last quarter of 2015. This study aims to guide policy-makers on how to use quality assurance as a support instrument for market incentives.