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Taken together, the six nations of Central America count a population of roughly 40 million people and an energy market equal in size to that of Colombia, sufficient to benefit from economies of scale. The region has traditionally been a net importer of hydrocarbons, and hydroelectricity has dominated electric generation. But more recently, thermoelectric generation (diesel and fuel oil) has greatly increased as a percentage of the regional generation market.

Progress has been made across the region’s electric sector, beginning with reforms in the 1990s and the 1996 signing of a regional treaty aimed at the development of a regional energy integration project – the Central American Electrical Interconnection System, or SIEPAC. A fundamental SIEPAC goal is to set up a regional electric market and a regulatory system. Indeed, after many years of development, SIEPAC is poised to open a new chapter in Central America’s electric infrastructure and market. But this new era must contend with critical issues such as the need to consolidate the regional electric market, political issues surrounding the venture, and security concerns. Moreover, local conflicts, in different degrees, have become priorities for policymakers, and these are possible barriers to completing the project.

The goals of the SIEPAC project and of deepening the broader electric integration process are possible if national and regional decision makers understand that cooperative decision making will produce better results than separate national decision making. Enhanced regional understanding and cooperative decision making, combined with an effort to reorient the terminology and dialogue vis-à-vis energy efficiency in Central America, form the core recommendations of this paper.


"The views, opinions, and/or findings contained in this report (paper) are those of the author(s) and should not be construed as an official Department of the Army position, policy or decision unless so designated by the official documentation.

Funded by the National Defense Center for Energy and Environment (NDCEE), ID W91WAW-09-D-0022, delivery order number 0616."

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