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The Integration of Renewables into the Bolivian Energy Mix - Legal Framework and Policies

Maria Elena Zegada

In Bolivia, a large proportion of the population lives in rural areas, facing considerable challenges, such as low incomes and fuel poverty. Numerous homes and businesses are off-grid, with no access to mains gas, electricity and heat. Renewable energy sources could provide basic supplies for domestic needs. Bolivia has a large potential for producing energy from renewable sources, but unfortunately this potential is only being marginally exploited at present. Since the approval of the new Bolivian constitution, in a referendum in January 2009, there is a concrete mandate to introduce and promote renewable energy and, correspondingly, the state has recognized the advantages of their use, not just in connection with the protection of the environment (avoiding climate-damaging emissions), but also for saving finite resources. Nevertheless, there is still no consistent legal framework available that could trigger the proper implementation of renewable energy. This paper will analyse the current legislation in Bolivia and describe the energy sector. Furthermore, it will argue in favour of a rapid and consistent adoption of proper legislation to embrace the use of renewable energies, thereby avoiding the use of conventional energies and the introduction of nuclear power, as is now envisaged by the Bolivian government. The analysis will indicate the need for an integrated approach to put in place the right policies for the development of energy projects and for the rational use of natural resources to satisfy the socioeconomic need of present and future generations. The paper does not focus on how the new generating capacity based on renewable sources is to be constructed, but on the legal framework and policies.

Dr María Elena Zegada is a researcher and project manager at the Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development in Dresden, Germany. She studied law at the Catholic University (Bolivia) and graduated with a PhD in International Law from the University of Freiburg (Germany). Dr Zegada worked for several years as a legal consultant for the local government of La Paz and the national government of Bolivia. Since 2005 she has been working for international cooperation agencies such as UNFPA, USAID, the European Union and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. Between 2009 and 2011 she was a specialist consultant for GIZ in relevant topics including Energy Law in Bolivia. For correspondence: <>.


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