Investing in the ‘Hidden Fuel’ the Smartest Alternative

By Leonardo Beltrán | Tue, 09/15/2020 – 18:18


Leonardo Beltran MBN

Leonardo Beltrán
Non-resident Fellow
Institute of the Americas

In its April 30 edition, The Economist published an article with the headline, “The 90% economy – Life after lockdowns,” which basically reflected on the impact the COVID-19 pandemic would have on the world economy. Last month, the Mexican Central Bank (Banxico) in its latest report (Apr-Jun 2020) presented three scenarios assessing the toll of the health crisis on the Mexican economy, which averaged 11 percent contraction in GDP for 2020. One of the main components contributing to this decline in the economy is mobility. Using Google COVID-19 Community Mobility Report data, Banxico calculated that for every 1% reduction in mobility in Mexico, there was a reduction of 0.49 percent in manufacturing activity and 0.60 percent in retail sales. Moreover, in Google’s Aug. 25 Mobility Report, data showed a contraction of 42 percent in the use of public transport and 35 percent in transfers to workplaces in the country. However hard these actions were, according to national and international experience, social confinement and mobility restriction have proven to be among the most effective policies to contain the expansion of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Although in the short to medium term mobility will slowly resume, the 90 percent economy has forced businesses to downscale and prioritize their virtual interactions over physical presence, thus speeding up the process of digitalization and automation, which in turn most likely will result in an overall global reduction in mobility.

Indeed, this forced push towards a more efficient mobility model certainly includes both impact and opportunity. For instance, transport and logistics, one of the most affected sectors even before the pandemic, was starting to see a toll. Air transport was observing a wave of consolidations, not only because of tighter regulations to comply with new environmental standards (airlines have to develop projects to compensate their emissions), but also because more environmentally conscious customers along with the emergence of the flygskam (flight-shaming) movement have affected demand, resulting in low to zero profitability for some airlines, especially the low-cost carriers. However, this trend is not only seen in airlines but in transport in general, thus to survive and thrive in a 90 percent economy, with lower structural demand and more stringent environmental regulations, this industry will have to embrace an energy efficient and sustainable way of doing business; in fact, data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance shows an increasing trend toward digital hailing applications. Between the last quarter of 2017 and the first quarter of this year, the number of users more than doubled. Today, there are more than 1.2 billion users worldwide and the number of drivers almost tripled to reach 67.6 million; in other words, the future of mobility includes digital and sustainable mobility.
On the other hand, manufacturing has also been experiencing ups and downs and although the trend in Mexico has been downward since mid-2018, the implementation of restrictions on production related to non-priority activities because of the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in one of the most acute falls in the recent history of this sector. Both in April and May of this year, activity contracted 35.5% compared to 2019. Yet, once these measures start to be lifted, manufacturing activity will gradually pick up. However, some of the associated companies and jobs would have been lost to the pandemic. In any case, the consolidated sector also will have to incorporate a smarter business model to adapt to the new normal.

The question, then, is where might you identify the investment opportunities? It definitely should be an area where by investing, the business would become more competitive, either by reducing costs and/or increasing productivity. In fact, the most promising alternative is to invest in energy efficiency, or as the International Energy Agency (IEA) has referred to it: the hidden fuel. The United Nations Industrial Development Organization has documented that organizations implementing energy management systems (EnMS) achieve reductions in energy consumption of up to 30 percent. Using data from the Latin American Energy Organization, in the Latin America and Caribbean region, industry represents 31 percent of total final energy consumption and 16 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In Mexico, industry’s total final energy consumption is a little bit higher, 34 percent, and contributes with 17.5 percent of GHG emissions. Assuming that in Mexico the results observed internationally are replicated, if we fully adopt EnMS across the industrial sector, we could achieve savings of US$3.9 billion per year, while cutting industrial GHG emissions in half.

If we are to see a better recovery, i.e. reducing our environmental footprint, recuperating jobs lost and creating permanent quality jobs, while improving competitiveness in production, the smartest alternative for industry is to invest in the hidden fuel. This will free resources otherwise spent on the cost of production, allowing businesses to expand operations or open new business lines that can stimulate economic and regional development, while at the same time, following a deep decarbonization pathway.


Pros and Cons of a Super Regulator – The case of the Spanish Regulator

This article was first published by Inter Press Service (IPS)


Leonardo Beltrán and Andrés Chambouleyron are non-resident Fellows at the Institute of the Americas located in La Jolla, California.

Extraordinary session of the Senate of the Republic of Mexico, June 29, 2020. Credit: Senado de Mexico.


LA JOLLA, California, United States, Jul 20 2020 (IPS) – On June 10, 2020, Senator Ricardo Monreal, President of the Political Coordination Board of the Senate of Mexico, presented a legislative initiative to reform Article 28 of the Political Constitution of the United Mexican States, in order to cluster in a single regulator of economic competition, the Telecommunications, Broadcasting and Energy sectors. (more…)

Energy Integration Key After the Pandemic

This article was first published by Mexico Business


By Leonardo Beltrán | Wed, 07/01/2020

If there is one thing, we have learned with the pandemic is that we cannot live in isolation. Developed and developing countries alike are struggling to maintain their economic sustenance, irrespective of their individual specialization and/or competitive advantage. Whether it is an agricultural, industrial or services exporting world power, the lockdowns have suddenly halted their momentum. However, the pandemic has shed light on the opportunities to enhance our collaborative work and strengthen our resiliency and stamina to weather the crisis. (more…)

Non-Profit Executive Richard Kiy named Institute of the Americas’ new President and CEO

Non-Profit Executive Richard Kiy named Institute of the Americas’ new President and CEO

For more information, please contact:
Chairman of the Board, Mr. Jorge Rosenblut
Vice President & Board Secretary, Mrs. Sherry White or call +1 (858) 335-1133


June 23, 2020 La Jolla, California USA ― The Board of Directors of the Institute of the Americas (IOA) is pleased to announce that Mr. Richard Kiy will be the Institute’s new President and CEO effective August 1, 2020. Kiy brings over 25 years of experience to the position having led philanthropic, business, and government organizations, both domestically and internationally, with much of his career’s work focused on Latin America. This, together with his prior residence in two Latin American countries, made Kiy an ideal candidate for the position.


IOA chairman Jorge Rosenblut noted, “Richard brings a wealth of experience and understanding of the Americas, as well as institutional building expertise. His boundless energy and entrepreneurial spirit will be particularly important to identify and quickly take advantage of unprecedented opportunities our current COVID-19 environment is bringing to light. His unique success in the private, public, and non-for-profit sectors made him the natural person to lead the IOA to a great future. My fellow board members and I are excited to help him succeed in developing a stronger foundation for the Institute and taking the IOA to new heights.”


Kiy is currently Managing Partner of Alumbra Advisors, a consulting firm. Prior to that, for nearly 14 years, Kiy was President and CEO of the International Community Foundation (ICF) where he took the philanthropic organization’s assets from $1 million to $22 million; increased its base of donors and secured $76 million in charitable gifts to further ICF’s mission. He also expanded ICF’s geographic reach beyond the San Diego/Tijuana border region, expanding the foundation’s grant-making throughout Mexico as well as 11 other countries across Latin America and the Caribbean. He also developed several new program areas for ICF that are still active today. While at ICF, he served as Chairman and a founding board member of the US-Mexico Border Philanthropy Partnership.


Previous to his work at ICF, he spent two years with PriceSmart, Inc. as Senior Vice President, Business Development expanding its business reach into 6 countries of Central America and the Caribbean. Earlier on, he was Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary and Technical Director at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Environment, Health & Safety (EH&S) in Washington, D.C. as well as the Acting Environmental Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City.


Kiy’s other private sector experience includes having served as Vice President for Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC)’s Mexican subsidiary, expanding the company’s environmental technology solutions and services business in Mexico following NAFTA’s passage. Later, he helped SAIC secure a multi-year $1.2 billion contract leading to a joint venture company with Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) where he was Director of Environment, Health and Safety (EH&S) Information Systems.


Living in Escondido, California, Kiy is fluent in Spanish and holds a BA in Economics from Stanford University, and a Master of Public Administration degree from Harvard University.


Kiy remarked, “My time away from leading ICF has re-affirmed my calling to return to the nonprofit sector where I can make a meaningful social impact in a region I care deeply about, Latin America.” Kiy noted, “I believe the Institute has a unique opportunity to spur expanded innovation, economic resilience, as well as greater social and environmental responsibility in the region. As President, I hope to leverage my diverse professional experience to enhance IOA’s reputation, reach and its sustained growth.”


Rosenblut concluded adding, “The Board is grateful to the Institute’s Interim President Theodore E. Gildred, III for stepping in to help guide the Institute during the 18-month transitional period participating in Institute programming, launching a new potential program, and managing the staff while the search process for the new President & CEO was underway. His commitment to the Institute is strong, and the time he took from his own business to help the Institute is much appreciated, and now Ted will return to help the IOA from his seat on the Board.”


Latin America’s Potential Green Hydrogen Economy

This article was first published by Inter Press Services

By Cecilia Aguillon
Cecilia Aguillon is Director of the Energy Transition Initiative at the Institute of the Americas in La Jolla, California


Providencia Solar Company

The Providencia Solar company, El Salvador. Latin America counts some of the globe’s most abundant and cost competitive renewable energy resources including hydroelectricity, solar, and wind. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS


LA JOLLA, California, Jun 22 2020 (IPS)

The COVID-19 pandemic and crisis has led to increasing attention and clamor to redouble efforts toward an energy transition that would help the world reduce C02 emissions. In many countries of the region, how to manage hydrocarbons, but with an eye on the energy transition has only been accentuated. We believe clean hydrogen is part of that broader policy and reconstruction debate.

Clean hydrogen markets can be a key part of the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, accelerate the decarbonization of Latin America’s electricity and transportation sectors, attract investment and create jobs. Indeed, the possibilities for oil and gas companies to produce and deliver hydrogen should facilitate and accelerate its adoption in Latin America particularly when combined with the region’s considerable renewable energy upside. (more…)