CARACAS, Venezuela—For over a century, energy-rich Venezuela has benefited economically, mainly from producing crude oil. But amid a race to net zero emissions by mid-century, it must now advance natural gas and preferably renewable developments.

Venezuela is blessed with oil, gas and numerous mineral resources such as gold to steel. Due to the country’s geographic location in the northern region of South America coupled with its long Caribbean coastline, it’s in the perfect location to benefit from renewable resources, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) foundation Venezuela director Katharina Wegner told Hart Energy July 21 during an interview in Caracas.

But Venezuela needs to move forward with future renewable activities in a sustainable manner in order to transform its productive matrix.

“Venezuela’s geographic location positions the country to be an exporter of renewables including green hydrogen,” Wegner said. “The country also has potential to take advantage of bioenergy in its central agriculture regions and reduce the sector’s reliance on hydrocarbons.”

Despite holding  the world’s largest oil reserves and seventh-largest gas reserves, Venezuela continues to suffer economic and humanitarian crises owing to ongoing political uncertainties.

Declining oil production and lackluster refining capacity have complicated efforts by state-owned Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) to produce sufficient refined products such as gasoline or diesel to fulfill domestic demand. And U.S. sanctions imposed in 2019 aimed at toppling the government of President Nicolas Maduro have complicated the state oil producers’ plans. Recurring shortages of gasoline and diesel are frequent across the country.

Venezuela’s massive hydroelectric capacity has also been impacted over the years by a lack of investments and maintenance, though in better times it provided the country with considerable renewable energy.

Efforts to reduce diesel consumption in the food transport sector in exchange for cleaner fuel options such as compressed natural gas for vehicles have fallen short. A lack of incentives and infrastructure to support a massive buildout around the plan hurt the initiative. And Venezuela continues to flare, vent and lose gas through leakage to the tune of more than 50% of its gas production.

Venezuela’s government has labeled the adverse effects of climate change as a national priority and has plans for remedial actions with projects spanning electrical energy, biological diversity, food sovereignty, agriculture sustainability, water conservation and waste education among others.

Wegner stressed the importance of education including efforts her foundation champions across Venezuela to inform citizens about the country’s oil and gas reserves as well as the use of gas as a safer and cleaner way to generate electricity. The foundation also favors reduced use of LNG canisters or, worse, coal and wood for cooking needs, she said.