February 2021

February 2021

Previous Panorama

Energy Panorama February 2021

This month we published our report “China Stakes Its Claim in Latin American Energy: What It Means for the Region, the U.S. and Beijing” in English, Spanish and Portuguese. We formally launched the report with a webinar co-hosted by University of California TV. The complete presentation and video is available below.

The final report was the product of a lengthy research project that counted support from a number of researchers, authors, editors and outside reviewers. Please do check out the report and our recognition page to see all those involved.

We are also pleased to announce Chris Sladen as our newest Energy & Sustainability Non-Resident Fellow.

Chris is transitioning to our roster of fellows after more than seven years as a member of the Institute of the Americas Board of Directors. Many of you know Chris from his tenure as President of BP Mexico. In his new role as an IOA fellow, he will focus on low-carbon and zero carbon polices and energy transition technologies. Each month, Chris delivers his latest insights in the op-ed “Energy Matters.” Volume 30 is included in this newsletter.

Reflecting on the energy crises in North America, our fellow Marta Jara penned a thought-provoking op-ed: “Energy Crisis: Tribal Behavior or Quality Decisions Based on Conscious Trade-Offs?”

We continue to burnish the efforts of our Energy Transition Initiative. ETI’s Director Cecilia Aguillon discussed how the lessons learned from California’s renewable energy legal and regulatory environment can inform the discourse in Latin America.

Our focus on the evolving energy and climate policy debate in Mexico continued and we contributed insights across several interviews by our fellow Leonardo Beltran and Vice President Jeremy Martin. We also participated as co-authors of the Energy & Sustainability Chapter of the US-Mexico Forum 2025 report, a UC San Diego-led effort to provide the Biden and Lopez Obrador administrations with policy recommendations.

Our Steering Committee met and had a robust discussion of hydrogen as a building block. We will continue to analyze the role for hydrogen in the region, how to inform and shape the policy debate and where to focus research and programming.

Stay tuned in March for the launch of our La Jolla Conference 30th anniversary website and draft program.

Featured Report (English, Español, Português)

China Stakes Its Claim in Latin American Energy: What It Means for the Region, the U.S. and Beijing


Report Launch Event: China Stakes its Claim in Latin American Energy: What it Means for the Region, the U.S., and Beijing

Opinion & Analysis

Energy Crisis: Tribal Behavior or Quality Decisions Based on Conscious Trade-Offs?

La mejor forma de fortalecer a CFE no es aislándola, sino permitiéndole competir y asociarse

Chris Sladen ANZMEX Energy Matters Vol 30

U.S.-Mexico Forum 2025 – Energy & Sustainability Chapter

In the News

Pide EU a México abrir la inversión en energía

Experiencia californiana aplicable a políticas energéticas de región: subastas, descentralización, incentivos y transparencia

Panamá: ¿un país atractivo para las inversiones en energía?

China y EE.UU.: la pugna por ganar presencia en América Latina

Mexico was once a climate leader – now it’s betting big on coal

China destinó $58,4 mil millones para el sector energético latinoamericano en las últimas dos décadas

Mexican electricity reform set to raise trade tensions with US

February 2021

January 2021

Energy Panorama January 2021

Welcome to the first installment of Energy Panorama for 2021.

To kick off the new year, our Non-Resident Fellows prepared short essays assessing the key trends and issues across the hemisphere. Their perspectives are compiled in this month’s featured report: Western Hemisphere 2021 Energy Landscape and Outlook.

On January 15, we dove right into programming and hosted our Ecuador Virtual Energy Roundtable. We reiterate our gratitude to Minister of Energy Rene Ortiz and his entire team for their collaboration and participation in our discussions of the investment climate, upcoming election cycle, priority projects and efforts to consolidate the gains of the current administration in the energy sector. The ministry’s summary, our synopsis report and recordings of the keynote address and panels are included below.

We were also quite busy in January with a variety of opinion essays and commentaries. We weighed in on topics ranging from the outlook for oil and gas in the region this year to the Biden administration’s cancelation of the Keystone XL pipeline. We also offered our insights on the potential for renewable energy in Trinidad & Tobago and Peru as well as the role for the electric sector and enhanced grid infrastructure to support economic recovery.

As we do each month, we are pleased to share the latest ANZMEX Energy Matters essays penned by IOA board member Chris Sladen.

Be sure to join us next month, on February 11, for the launch of the Energy & Sustainability program’s report: China Stakes Its Claim in Latin American Energy: What It Means for the Region, the U.S. and Beijing.

Lastly, stay tuned for our announcement on the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the La Jolla Conference in May.

Featured Report

Western Hemisphere 2021 Energy Landscape and Outlook


Ecuador Virtual Energy Roundtable Videos

Playlist Library


Ecuador Virtual Energy Roundtable Summary

Institute of the Americas Report

Ministry of Energy and Non-Renewable Natural Resources Summary

Opinion & Analysis

National Electric Grid Key to Faster Economic Recovery

Is Revoking the Keystone XL Permit a Good Decision?

COVID-19 and Climate Change Prompt an Energy Rethink in Trinidad and Tobago

Will Peru Make Progress on its Energy Transition?

What Lies Ahead for Latin America’s Energy Sector?

Chris Sladen ANZMEX Energy Matters Vol 29

Chris Sladen ANZMEX Energy Matters Vol 28


In the News

Ecuador ratifica la continuidad de su subasta de energías renovables por 200 MW

OLADE exhorta a gobiernos latinoamericanos a desarrollar políticas energéticas a largo plazo

Ecuador refinery project caps Moreno reform effort

Exxon had offered more gas per day than Guyana needs – Patterson admits

Energy Protectionism in Mexico Has Made Climate the Victim

New U.S. Administration Likely Means More Natural Gas for Mexico, Expert Says

Argentina’s bet on Vaca Muerta needs international financing

Energy Crisis: Tribal Behavior or Quality Decisions Based on Conscious Trade-Offs?

This article was first published at IPS News


Marta Jara is Non-Resident Fellow, Institute of the Americas

MONTEVIDEO, Feb 25 2021 (IPS) – Crises, as the one we saw across the US and Mexico last week originated by Winter Storm Uri, provide ample material for reflection. This is particularly clear from a distant viewpoint and when benefitting from the fact of not being directly affected, as strong emotions and reactions that often bias our judgements are absent.

While biases make us efficient decision makers in our day-to-day lives, when tackling complex problems with serious consequences, it is the efficacy of decision making that counts. Developing awareness of relevant decision biases and means to neutralize them is increasingly a key competency in the energy industry as it is in the modern business world.

The basic attributes of a sound energy system: abundance, security and affordability. Abundance means to have a pool of energy that is available in a way that does not restrict our activities and development. Security means that the flow is not vulnerable to interruptions of whatever manner

The blackouts and shortages in Texas, paradoxically an energy hub, where many of our readers might live, have friends or colleagues, raise first of all empathy for those affected, as this situation brings to the fore in a vivid way something already well understood: the central role that energy plays. Our modern lives simply cannot tolerate blackouts, let alone going without power and heat for days.But, perhaps most importantly, we are reminded of the basic attributes of a sound energy system: abundance, security and affordability. Abundance means to have a pool of energy that is available in a way that does not restrict our activities and development. Security means that the flow is not vulnerable to interruptions of whatever manner: technical, political, meteorological, etc.

For the system to be secure, both availability of supply and infrastructure need to be resilient, be it by intrinsic robustness, diversification, redundancies, or intangible elements like trust between participating counterparts.

Affordability means that economic access to energy is broadly granted. It is of course a relative term, which takes different meanings, whether it is applied to a context of persons’ basic needs or businesses competitiveness.

There is another aspect, yet to achieve the same attention as the other three, and it is environmental performance. When externalities, like CO2 emissions, are properly brought into the price of energy, this attribute must be considered in a discussion of affordability.

The crisis of last week brings us back to the core issue of trade-offs that have to be considered as part of any energy solution. Every society needs to find the right ones to balance these often conflicting system’s attributes (e.g. more redundancy might mean more cost).

This is the job of elected officials. But their job pretty much ends there. Once the preferences are laid out, it becomes a technical job to oversee how the system is designed and to what standards it is constructed and operated.

That is what technical operators and regulators do. The case in hand shows (not exceptionally) the blame pointed towards every moving target and exposes the confusion (perhaps deliberate) around roles and responsibilities in energy governance.

What the clear separation of roles forces to do is to explicitly state risk tolerance and policy objectives. Not doing so, inevitably pushes the policy decisions into an opaque space, where industry and other lobbies find it easier to force their way.

Setting these boundary conditions for a system design a priori is not a natural exercise for politicians, as talking about trade-offs is not an easy task. The public expects to minimize compromise. In Spanish there’s an expression for the ideal product: “bueno, bonito y barato” (good, beautiful and cheap) and it is almost synonymous to utopia.

But ignoring the boundaries of reality when adopting a strategy might be more painful down the road than it is rolling up the sleeves and embarking on a conscientious discussion in the first place.

As behavioral sciences are being deployed to support complex human interactions ranging from market dynamics to policy making and politics, energy professionals also need to think more of how cognitive biases are affecting our industry.

The avoidance of conflict described above can be characterized by the so called “ostrich bias” (discarding uncomfortable information, similarly to an ostrich digging its head into the sand as if by not seeing a threat it would disappear).

There are many frequent decision-making and behavioral biases that can be observed in relation to the Texas crisis, that seem to be clouding stakeholders and public judgement. Not only the posts in social media, as expected, but also institutional statements coming from senior officials provide many examples.

Discarding information (the still minor share of wind energy in Texas energy mix and the factually higher impact from natural gas supply disruption) in order to confirm one’s own beliefs (in this case in favor of fossil fuels) is a textbook case.

Confirmation biases go then beyond energy choices to validate perceptions of who are villains and heroes according to one’s affiliations. Polarized societies nurture confirmation bias.

Another typical bias is the Outcome bias: to judge a decision by its outcome instead of based on its quality. If the decision to not winterize certain equipment was sound in terms of risk tolerance and costs, it is still sound when an undesired or even extreme event hits, as it means its probability has been assessed but not considered a design condition.

Or the contrary decision, to spend more on resilience, was the right one and had to be defended at investment time with the same passion as the blame is voiced today. Of course, there is always political credit to be gained when things turn badly and hence failures are usually opportunistically stressed instead of being judged against the original decision criteria. So, outcome bias is also nurtured in the public debate.

Thinking more broadly about decision biases, especially relevant at times of technology disruption and energy transition, is a whole category described in the context of Prospect Theory. This theory asserts that it is natural to be attached to the status quo, to justify the incumbent system and to be averse to dispose of assets that decline in value.

No doubt, financial write-offs are not without certain embarrassment. ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) standards set by regulators and institutional investors are increasingly challenging this tendency towards irrational choices and forcing decision makers to rigorously reassess portfolios and overcome inertia in order to fulfill their fiduciary duties. Black Rock’s Larry Fink’s 2021 letter to CEOs is, in essence, focused on the ostrich taking its head out of the sand.

It seems like a lost battle pointing to the irrationality of human behavior, as this (in comparative terms) short energy crisis in Texas is not a first of its kind and similar conclusions have been drawn in the past, but there are arguably better scientific resources to be tapped for addressing old challenges.

To counterbalance populism and tribal behavior, energy professionals in the public and private spheres should raise their awareness and increasingly draw upon neuroscientific based approaches. These approaches will provide deeper engagement across a complex set of stakeholders and more effective communication with regards to realistic options available to solve critical problems – climate change at the top of the list- and understanding their implied trade-offs.

Elections in many countries of the hemisphere, the pressure from post COVID economies, and the highly uncertain energy markets set a challenging scene that can be taken over by tribal crossfire or can open up a space for much needed informed and consensus building strategic dialogue.

Is there hope for honest public debates leading to quality policy choices? If not, we should expect not just blackouts but much bigger disruptions ahead.

Works Cited

(1) (Gino, Francesca; Moore, Don A.; Bazerman, Max H. (2009). “No Harm, No Foul: The Outcome Bias in Ethical Judgments” (PDF). SSRN 1099464. Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 08-080.)

(2) Prospect Theory developed by Nobel Prize winners Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, 1979

Report Launch Event: China Stakes Its Claim in Latin American Energy: What It Means for the Region, the U.S. and Beijing

Report Launch Event: China Stakes Its Claim in Latin American Energy: What It Means for the Region, the U.S. and Beijing


When: February 11

Time: 9-10am (San Diego time)

Where: Online

Institute of the Americas and expert commenters for the launch of the Energy & Sustainability program’s report: China takes Its Claim in Latin American Energy: What It Means for the Region, the U.S. and Beijing.

Cecilia Aguillon, Energy Transition Initiative Director and Jeremy M. Martin, Vice President, Energy & Sustainability at the Institute of the Americas will present an overview of the report followed by a discussion panel with Matt Ferchen, Head of Global China Research at Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS) and Michael Davidson, Assistant Professor at the School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS) at UCSD.

The People’s Republic of China (China) has become a major investor, lender and actor across the energy sector in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). Indeed, loans and investments from China have financed an impressive array of projects in infrastructure, energy and mining.

China has clearly, as our report title notes, staked a claim in LAC’s energy sector. In 2020, Chinese M&A deals in LAC energy reached $7.7 billion, according to Bloomberg, or 25% of Chinese acquisitions worldwide.

With the contours of the global energy transition and increased attention on reducing emissions and climate action spurring huge growth in renewable energy, China has flexed its muscles in that segment of the global energy sector and in LAC.

China’s growing presence in Latin America presents challenges to U.S.-LAC relations, which the new Biden administration must address. A new administration together with Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress provides an opportune moment to reset. Indeed, the new administration has an opportunity to counter China and strengthen US-Latin America relations by encouraging private investment, particularly in mining, clean energy and infrastructure projects.

Partial funding provided by

Mujeres en STEAM webinar

Mujeres en STEAM webinar

Cuando: jueves 11 de febrero 2021
Hora: 14:30 – 16:00 PST (hora de California)
Dónde: Zoom
Contacto: Francesca Carrillo-Díaz, Asociada del programa STEAM

La Asamblea General de las Naciones Unidas ha declarado el 11 de febrero como el Día Internacional de la Mujer y la Niña en la Ciencia.

“Nunca permitas que la imaginación limitada de los demás te limite.” – Mae Jemison, astronauta americana

El Instituto de las Américas extiende una cordial invitación a estudiantes de secundaria y preparatoria que estén interesadas en STEAM a unirse a este seminario web el jueves 11 de febrero de 2021.

Este seminario web contara con la presencia de tres mujeres dinámicas: Ing. Sabina López, Mtra. Anaí Novoa, y Mtra. Laura Almodóvar. Las tres oradoras actualmente están trabajando o cursando un título en diversos campos de STEAM desde la ingeniería de industrias alimentarias, biología marina, y ciencias ambientales. Ellas contestarán preguntas sobre sus trayectorias académicas y profesionales y platicarán sobre ser una mujer latina en campos de STEAM. Las participantes recibirán consejos y tendrán la oportunidad de aprender sobre el día a día de alguien que se encuentra en el mundo de STEAM.

Con este evento, la Iniciativa STEAM del Instituto de las Américas busca fomentar el interés en STEAM en estudiantes para poder ayudar a inspirar a la próxima generación de mujeres en STEAM.
Este evento será binacional y abierto para estudiantes de secundaria y preparatoria. El panel será en español, no habrá servicios de interpretación.

¡Conoce a nuestras maravillosas oradoras! 

Laura Almodóvar
Laura Almodóvar
Estudiante de doctorado en Ecología | Universidad de Maryland Eastern Shore | Bahía de Chesapeake, USA

Laura Almodóvar-Acevedo es originaria de Puerto Rico, donde obtuvo una licenciatura en Biología de la Universidad de Puerto Rico Mayagüez. Actualmente estudia un doctorado en la Universidad de Maryland Eastern Shore y se especializa en Ecología como parte del Programa de Posgrado en Ciencias Ambientales de Estuarios Marinos, y acaba de terminar su servicio como miembro legislativo de Sea Grant Knauss para la oficina del congresista Alan Lowenthal, representante del 47 ° Distrito de California.

Ella estudia el uso del hábitat juvenil de lubina negra en la Maryland, USA los cuales incluyen: (1) una encuesta de hábitat para estudiar cómo se distribuye esta especie de pez y cuales hábitats prefieren, (2) un experimento para medir el efecto de la temperatura en sus tasas de respiración y, (3) un ‘Modelo de Adecuación del Hábitat’, que mide temperatura, la salinidad y el tipo de fondo, para explorar el hábitat disponible para ellos en la bahía. Este estudio ayudará a identificar los servicios eco sistémico de arrecifes específicos y ayudará a explorar la importancia de la bahía de Chesapeake para los juveniles de lubina negra.

A lo largo de su carrera, ha participado en expediciones de cartografía del fondo marino a bordo del E/V Nautilus y como parte del equipo en tierra del Okeanos Explorer. También trabajó como facilitadora de alcance para las Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay. En su tiempo libre le gusta leer, viajar y tocar la guitarra.

Sabina López
Sabina López
Ingeniera en Industrias Alimentarias | Alfa Laboratorio | Tijuana, Baja California, México

Sabina López es Ingeniera en Industrias Alimentarias con Maestría en Administración, ambas egresadas del Tecnológico de Monterrey. Cuenta con estudios en Yale University en Estados Unidos, UCD Dublin en Irlanda y Autónoma de Madrid en España. Tiene licencia como Food Safety Manager por la National Food Safety Professionals, HACCP por la International HACCP Alliance, y Controles Preventivos para alimentos por la FSCPA. 5 años de experiencia en la consultoría relacionada a la calidad e inocuidad de los alimentos y orgullosa egresada de la comunidad de la prepa de CETYS Universidad, Campus Tijuana.

Anaí Novoa
Anaí Novoa
Candidata de doctorado en Biología Marina | Scripps Institution of Oceanography | La Jolla, California, USA

Anaí recibió su licenciatura en Biología de la Universidad de California, Santa Bárbara y su maestría en Ciencias Marinas de la Universidad de San Diego. Actualmente es candidata a doctorado en Biología Marina en Scripps Institution of Oceanography ubicado en Universidad de California en San Diego.

Anaí se crió en City Heights y participó en el programa de Ocean Discovery Institute cuando estaba en la preparatoria. Como estudiante de doctorado, estudia la ecología de los parásitos porque le interesa comprender mejor cómo interactúan los parásitos con sus huéspedes.