Political Will is Key to Kazakhstan’s Green Economy Transition, Says Latin American Expert

ASTANA – Political leadership and effective policies could be pivotal in driving Kazakhstan’s transition to a green economy, similar to the successful approach in Latin America, said Andrés Rebolledo, the executive secretary of the Latin American Energy Organization (OLADE) and Honorary Consul of Kazakhstan in Chile in an interview with The Astana Times. 

Andrés Rebolledo, Executive Secretary of OLADE and Honorary Consul of Kazakhstan in Chile. Photo supplied by author.

Lessons from the Latin American region

Latin America represents one of the world’s most dynamic and resource-rich regions. It is home to areas of substantial solar potential and has scores of sites for wind and hydropower. With abundant natural resources, the region has vast potential to provide renewable energy.

“We can say that we are the greenest region in the world. Not only in the primary energy matrix, but specifically in the electricity generation. Today, in Latin America, we produce 65% of our electricity from renewable and clean energy. This is the highest percentage among all regions that you analyze in the world,” said Rebolledo.

However, the challenge is that at least 40% of renewable energy comes from hydropower.

“It is important because it is easily [generated] renewable, but it is complicated in the medium or long-term because of climate change. There are some countries in Latin America today that are facing a problem with electricity supplies because of the scarcity of water resources. So we have to diversify from using only water and also to include these non-traditional renewables like solar and wind or technology,” said Rebolledo.

Changing global market prices for clean energy favored Latin America as technology costs plummeted. According to Rebolledo, this trend could also benefit Kazakhstan.

“I want to remind people that renewables are not only the solution to have a more sustainable economy but also a more competitive economy. What does it mean? Renewable technology today is cheaper than the traditional technology. So when you could put solar or wind on your matrice, you are changing not only in order to be more responsible in your commitment towards climate change, but also you are more competitive, because the technology, at least in the case of many countries in Latin America and I suppose in Kazakhstan, help us to decrease the pressure for the final process of prices of energy,” said Rebolledo.

The crucial role of government policy

Rebolledo highlighted the importance of government policies that prioritize energy transition.

“It has been a very important political approach in Latin America. I think that, at the end of the day, one of the most important elements in order to move forward [in energy transition] is to have a political decision and to mobilize the rest of the actors of the electricity sector,” he said.

“The second point is it’s also equally important to have a carbon neutrality goal in some near future because that implies you have to make all the movements in your political and economic decisions. In the case of Latin America, there are many countries that have decided to have carbon neutrality and net zero emissions by 2050. So not only have the final goal but also have goals during the phasing out period,” said Rebolledo.

Kazakhstan has committed to achieving its carbon neutrality goals by 2060 and is developing a roadmap for implementing the strategy. The country is also attracting investors to explore the country’s renewable energy potential by providing green investors stability and predictability.

“I have the general idea about the approach that the President [Tokayev] and Kazakhstan’s government have decided to incorporate private investment in the economy in order to diversify the participation of capital coming from different countries, not to be dependent on the state sector as the main gene of the economy, but also to have more additional actors in the economy. I think that is quite an important element in order to imagine permanent, sustainable economic growth,” said Rebolledo.

According to Rebolledo, an open economy was essential for energy-related investment and was vital to the success of high-profile emission-reduction initiatives in Latin America.

“We’re developing countries, but we have made advancements over the last 30 years, and the formula has been the openness of our economy and the invitation of different actors to our countries,” he said.

Regional cooperation prospects

To set out the importance of engagement with Chile and the broader Latin American region, Rebolledo highlighted the complementary nature of their economies, particularly in the mining sector. The Latin American region is particularly rich in critical minerals.

“I think we are very complementary countries in the case of the mining sector, even though we have different sub-sectors in mining. In the case of Latin America, not only do we have regional mines like copper, but today we also have very strategic and critical mining for the energy transition, like lithium or cobalt, in the case of Brazil, for instance,” said Rebolledo.

In turn, Kazakhstan has been developing its rare earth metals production, which is strategic for electronics and clean energy technology components. With 15 rare earth deposits, the country seeks closer cooperation with international partners to uncover the ample opportunities these deposits present.

The Central Asian region might also attract investors due to its critical geopolitical location, particularly its access to the Chinese market.

“I think the position in the world map of Kazakhstan is very interesting because you are in the center of the most dynamic region in the world and you have connections. So I really think that Kazakhstan has a role for the Latin American investor as a platform in order to invest in some interesting sectors in Kazakhstan. Not only to provide product or service to Kazakhstan as a domestic market but also to the rest of the region around Kazakhstan like China,” said Rebolledo.

Honorary Consul’s role

As an Honorary Consul of Kazakhstan in Chile, Rebolledo sees a part of his objective as building new partnerships beyond established alliances.

“I think that the procedure is very interesting. One of the specific responsibilities you have to do is to show to your people in Chile, to the private sector and to the government what Kazakhstan is and why it’s important to have close relations with Kazakhstan, what is happening in Kazakhstan in terms of reform, what are the economic trends Kazakhstan has had during the last year and what is going to happen in the future,” Rebolledo explained.

Chilean companies are interested in exploring Kazakhstan’s mining sector.

“This year, only two or three people went to Kazakhstan as tourists. The rest of the people want to do some business in the mining sector. It is impressive. Because they know that they are very complimentary economies. In that way, I think, there’s an interesting possibility to participate and to do business,” he said.

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