Chile’s energy future is renewable and it only depends on us to make it a reality. Historically, in our energy grid, energy generation based on fossil fuels has been the main source we have used for the development of productive activities and the construction of infrastructure, with the negative environmental and social consequences that this entails. Despite its long territory, Chile does not have large reserves of fossil fuels, or at least not easily accessible ones, as is the case with gas deposits in the Magallanes region. However, the apparent energy poverty that forced the country for decades to use such polluting fuels as coal no longer has a basis in reality. Chile is a country favored by wind and sun, like no other in Latin America.
The driest desert in the world, under the clearest skies on the planet, represents a unique combination that positions Chile as a world power in solar energy generation. At the same time, Chile’s more than 4,000 km of coastline and the plains at the southern tip and Tierra del Fuego receive incessant strong winds from the Pacific Ocean, making the Chilean coast the perfect setting for the installation of wind parks that transform the movement of blades and turbines into clean energy.
According to figures from ACERA A.G. in August 2020, 25.6% of the installed capacity in the National Grid corresponds to Non-Conventional Renewable Energy (ERNC) sources. Of this total, 12.1% corresponds to photovoltaic solar energy and 8.9% to wind energy. Along with other renewable sources such as biomass, mini hydroelectric power plants and geothermal energy, Chile today boasts a grid with a quarter of its generation capacity based on renewable resources, surpassing the 20% goal that the State had set for 2025.
But it is not enough to just build solar plants and wind parks. Equally important and fundamental is having the appropriate infrastructure that allows this clean energy to be delivered to the major consumption centers of the country. Until the commissioning of the Cardones-Polpaico Transmission Line, the “electric highway” was not robust enough to transmit all the energy from wind and photovoltaic generators located in the north of the country. However, that is no longer an impediment today, as our double 500 kV circuit infrastructure allowed the interconnection of the National Electric System at full capacity and widened this electron highway so that millions of Chilean families can take advantage of the great energy capital that the territory has, with the satisfaction of knowing that every time they install themselves to work from home, educate their children with online classes, or simply share with their families during this quarantine, they are doing so with an important part of electricity from non-polluting sources.
To continue moving steadily towards the decarbonization of our grid before 2040 and achieve the goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, it is crucial that the transition be well-planned and consider the harmonious development at both the technical and regulatory levels of the entire chain consisting of the generation, transmission, and distribution segments, so that the growth of one of these is not limited by the slowness in the regulatory discussion of others, such as the particular case of the study of zones for future transmission projects. Together and working coordinately, we can take advantage of the moment that Chile is experiencing in energy matters and leave future generations a country that is responsible in the use of its natural resources, aware of the care and respect for its environmental surroundings, and that knows how to harmoniously combine economic growth with the social development of the communities surrounding such important projects as Cardones-Polpaico.
Gabriel Melguizo Posada
General Manager of ISA Interchile