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PANAMA - Energy & Mining

Jorge Rivera Staff

National Secretary of Energy, Panama

Bio

Jorge Rivera Staff is the current National Secretary of Energy. He has a degree in law and political science, with a doctorate in administrative law from Complutense University of Madrid. He also has a master’s degree in energy law from the Higher Institute of Energy (ISE) of Spain. Rivera Staff has more than 10 years of experience advising governments and private companies on legal, regulatory, and public policy issues in the energy sector. His academic base includes a specialization in globalization and public services of general interest, as well as in integration processes in Europe and the US at Carlos III University of Madrid.

"We are working on a base of our previous work. For example, we have a mature wholesale market for electricity that dates back to 1998 with a solid track record in investments and transactions there."
Panama is progressing in its energy transition by prioritizing key tasks including doubling its solar and wind capacity, updating its hydrocarbon regulatory framework, and establishing a regional green hydrogen hub.
How is the energy transition in Panama progressing thus far?

The main policy proposal for this administration is the energy transition agenda. We started developing this agenda in September 2019 some two months after the government was formed. We started a dialogue with key stakeholders and decision makers in the energy sector, including the hydrocarbons and electricity sector, and set a process of prioritizing the key tasks for the coming years. We used two main elements. The first was the previous national energy plan approved by the previous administration, a long-term vision from 2016 to 2050, that we wanted to turn into more of an action plan. The second element was the campaign promises President Cortizo had made relating to energy that we wanted to fulfill. We started this prioritizing process and produced this energy transition and proposal. It is aligned with the UN’s SDG 7 2030 Agenda and is the reason why the target for the energy transition in Panama is 2030, along with Panama’s commitments to the Paris Agreement for 2030, 2040, and 2050. We have a proposal ready for the energy transition agenda of this process. We have five specific strategies for the electricity sector and two strategic proposals for the hydrocarbon sectors in order to impose the energy transition agenda. The day we presented the proposal to the president, the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Panama. We had to instead focus on guaranteeing the security and continuity of business in the energy sector in those first few months. The world had changed, and we had to adapt the previous one to the new reality. We realized we did not have to change anything because this proposal would be a key enabler of economic recovery post pandemic. We worked hard to validate this and studied its feasibility with the support of the UN Environmental Program. Panama was the first country in Latin America to run a model on the economic impact of the energy transition agenda. We can help create around 15,000 new jobs in two to three years and add least USD500 million to the GDP on an annual basis with such initiatives. We also validated some of the key investments that we need for the energy transition agenda that will amount to USD4 billion in the next six or seven years. This is key for economic recovery.

What specific action plans is the country taking to become a main player in the energy transition?

We are working on a base of our previous work. For example, we have a mature wholesale market for electricity that dates back to 1998 with a solid track record in investments and transactions there. It is a key enabler of the baseline that we have on the renewable use of electricity in Panama. We are also starting to see the first results of this energy transition process. For example, in 2021 we doubled our solar capacity from 200MW to more than 400MW. We added another 66MW to our matrix from wind; therefore, it has increased by around 24%. We are also growing around 20-23% on rooftop solar installations. There are specific action plans that we have been approving in terms of energy access, efficiency, and mobility, distributed generation, and innovation of the system. These are all our plans for the electricity sector. The two key strategic proposals for hydrocarbons are to update our regulatory framework in Panama and reinforce our energy hub condition here. We are already an energy hub related to the ships that use the Canal and have a great opportunity to launch an energy transition initiative there with a regional green hydrogen hub in Panama. Panama can be a hub for the trading, storage, and transformation of green hydrogen for the region.

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