Itaipu dam, Brazil

PDIA to accelerate energy transitions and net zero economies in LAC

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Guest blog written by Alfonso Blanco Bonilla

I have the honor of leading the Latin American Energy Organization since 2017. OLADE is the international organization formed by 27 LAC countries, represented by their governments, to act in support of the development of the energy sector in the Latin American and Caribbean región (LAC).

During my period at office, much of our efforts as an international organization have been aimed at supporting and accompanying the construction of public policies for the energy sector, with a focus on energy transitions. In that sense supporting the actions to decarbonize the energy matrix of the region and integrating the energy policy as a fundamental part of the climate actions committed by Latin America and the Caribbean.

During a grand part of my professional career leading many transformation processes in Latin America and the Caribbean, I have seen that it is not possible to act on complex public policy challenges using a traditional project management model, even when these models are mandated and a requirement of the agents who provide the financement for the development and implementation of the policy. Moreover, many times I noticed that the very realization of supposedly measurable results and part of the formal performance indicators of programs designed and conceived under the idea of planning and control, did not translate into a real transforming process. I can list multiple examples of laws in Latin America and the Caribbean oriented to the energy sector that supposedly materialized the realization of a transformative program and that the real result was simply to fill a dusty library in some parliament.

For this reason, based on the experience in Implementing Public Policy of HKS, I have gradually incorporated elements of PDIA in order to be part of the support of OLADE in the development of the sectorial policies for the region. In this sense, it has been a revealing, motivating and transformative process as a part of our contribution to the region.

Fundamentally, the iterative approach is useful when it is necessary to work in teams that integrate many institutions and when we talk about building a strategy with a long-term vision, which must be participatory, which also needs to materialize an agreement between actors, build a social and economic development model and in which the policy implementation environment is, by nature, deeply complex.

The gradual advance by iterative processes is the key, feedback and adjustment from learning is the identified way to advance and the deconstruction of problems to reach their real causes and reconstructing to act effectively, have been the tools that OLADE’s advisory team have gradually incorporated into actions and collaboration we provide in the design and implementation of energy policies in LAC region.

From this approach of a new way of conceiving policy challenges, delving into the complexities of the environment and the process itself, and thus acting, learning and adapting our added value iteratively; I have felt a greater empowerment by the actors involved. They are no longer merely involved, individuals affected by a program or resources for the specific development, they are now a fundamental part of the process and feel the process and the results as their own.

This has also been accompanied by the construction of a story of the process, I have managed to identify that an attractive story of the process is more motivating and useful than the mere rendering of results and fundamentally mobilizes the interested parties by creating the necessary legitimating environment.

We have started this work of introducing PDIA tools and contributions in the elaboration of policies for the energy sector in Honduras with the preparation of its Roadmap 2050 for the energy sector, later in Uruguay supporting the Energy Agenda 2050 (which will soon be socialized) and our work is beginning on the construction of an energy policy for Ecuador.

Traditionally, there has been a fracture in the dialogue between government bodies. Energy policies have been built in isolation, simply responding to the supply and demand situation and resorting to prepackaged policy products transferred by international agencies or multilateral banks that do not reach a full involvement in the process.

Likewise, dialogue between those responsible for environmental policies and energy policies has been practically non-existent and that has led to few countries in LAC having real long-term policies for the energy sector that integrates in a coordinated way the expected evolution of the energy sector.

The Secretary of Energy of Honduras in the presentation of the Roadmap for the 2050 Energy Policy said: “… a long-term vision has been defined on the goal that this Energy Policy intends to achieve by 2050 in Honduras. This process of preparing the Energy Policy was an example of a broad citizen participation[1].

At the same event during my intervention, I said: “This roadmap is the work of all Hondurans and is an example for our entire region in the construction and coordination between the different State dependencies, with the civil society, the academia and the rest of the actors that are involved in the energy sector. This is a clear example of the construction of an energy policy based on a national dialogue”.

The speech of the Secretary of State of the Office of Energy of Honduras in the public presentation of the policy document clearly reflects much of the foundations of PDIA as a participatory, iterative and consultative methodology and also highlights this type of contribution to an effective, modern development that strengthens democracies and institutions in our region.

That is why this process and the learning throughout the development of HKS IPP I take it as a personal achievement but also an advance in OLADE’s contribution to three of its member countries, support for the development of public policies that effectively contributed to the construction and strengthening of regional institutions. Achievements from small steps, from gradual contributions, but that continuously build the foundations of great transformations.

[1]   Source: OLADE, 2021. Available at:

This is a blog series written by the alumni of the Implementing Public Policy Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. Participants successfully completed this 6-month online learning course in December 2021. These are their learning journey stories.

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