Renewable Energy Chile – With the 2019 UN Climate Change Conference (COP25) now underway in Madrid, Chile is maintaining its leadership position in the negotiations. Chile’s restricted geography has made the country more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, creating both challenges and opportunities for its energy sector. As the country is heavily dependent on fossil fuel imports, increasing its own renewable energy production is a national priority. Over the past few years, Chile has developed a fast-growing renewable energy sector, ranking first in BloombergNEF’s 2018 Emerging Markets Report on Clean Energy Investment Opportunities in Developing Countries. Much progress needs to be made in Chile, from protecting vulnerable communities from climate change to addressing the impact of existing energy infrastructure, but this year the U.N. The country has a unique story to tell in the climate talks.
Spain agreed to host COP25 in October when Chile pulled out following civil unrest that erupted in Santiago and several other major cities across the country. As Chile weathers protests and continues to draft a new post-Pinoche constitution domestically, it will retain the presidency of this COP and host the meeting with Spain. This is not unusual: in 2017, Fiji hosted COP23 in Bonn, Germany, due to insufficient capacity in its capital, Suva.
In addition to leading this year’s negotiations, Chile is expected to announce at COP25 that new global actors, including cities, regions, businesses and investors, will join a “coalition for climate ambition” to accelerate climate action by the end of 2020. In April, Chile announced that maritime issues would be a key issue for the COP presidency. Chile has been a global leader in marine climate action for the past few years, launching the Marine Declaration in 2015, encouraging countries to include marine issues in their national climate responsibilities and designating 40% of their exclusive economic zone as marine protected areas. In 2018.
Bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Andes Mountains to the east, Chile is the thinnest country in the world, measuring only 217 miles at its widest point. At 2,600 miles long, it is one of the most naturally diverse countries, from the arid Atacama Desert in the north to the glacial mountains and lakes of Patagonia in the south. Encompassing several ecosystems, Chile experiences a variety of climatic influences along its length:
More than half of Chile’s energy comes from coal, oil and gas. Due to its resource-constrained geography, Chile has very few domestic fossil fuel resources and imports almost all of its oil, natural gas, and coal, making it vulnerable to high gasoline prices and global oil market shocks. ENAP, Chile’s national oil company, buys only a small amount of the imported fuel, extracting 14,000 barrels of oil per day from Ecuador from highly diverse and intact areas of the Amazon rainforest. and gas from Argentina.
The country’s historical dependence on fossil fuel imports has made renewable energy production a national priority. Chile relies heavily on hydropower (30% of electricity production in 2018, compared to 60% a quarter of a century ago) due to its rich natural basins in the south. However, Chile’s water resources are highly vulnerable to drought and other changes in water availability, and some past hydroelectric projects have affected local ecosystems and economies, including indigenous communities. New hydroelectric projects are unlikely, and Chile’s share of electricity has fallen 27 percent over the past decade. Chile’s energy development potential lies in renewable sources – the Atacama Desert has some of the highest solar radiation in the world, and the country has significant development potential for wind energy.
Fortunately, Chile has made significant progress in developing its renewable energy sector. In 2018, 91% of new capacity added to Chile’s electricity grid came from solar and wind. Earlier this year, Chile’s share of non-hydro renewable energy exceeded 20%, and auctions have already set record prices, especially for solar power. This represents a major shift from less than three percent of Chile’s electricity a decade ago, dominated by diesel, coal, hydro and renewables. Chile is testing wave energy off its coast with South America’s first geothermal power plant (from high-altitude volcanoes).
However, Chile’s renewable energy growth has been accompanied by an increase in the country’s natural gas supply, which has increased from 5% to 15% of the energy mix over the past decade. Chile was heavily dependent on natural gas from Argentina, which cut off 90% of its supply to Chile in 2007 due to economic problems. This has led to an increase in coal, which makes up 40% of Chile’s energy mix, which is now slowly coming out, but because some of the plants are so new, it will take some time to come out. Since 2007, Chile has begun to rebuild its supply of natural gas from several countries through two LNG terminals, and recently re-imported from Argentina.
As Chile continues to grow its renewable energy industry, it faces a separate but related problem: ensuring that this new energy reaches the people who need it. Although only 18 million people live in Chile, about a third live in Santiago, located in the center of Chile. Most of Chile’s solar projects to date have been north of the Atacama Desert, and while it has proven useful for decarbonizing some energy-intensive northern copper mines, getting that energy to Santiago in time has been a challenge. Consumes less electricity. However, as more renewable energy is produced in the far north, Chile’s energy ministry is exploring future possibilities to become an energy exporter to Peru.
Two years ago, Chile took an important step to facilitate energy transport between the north and central regions. Chile originally had four power grids – one in the north, one in the center, and two in the south. In November 2017, Chile successfully connected its northern and central grids to form the National Electricity System (SEN), which now serves 97% of the population. The link has limited capacity but is already changing electricity prices and the share of the Far North. In addition, solar resources are also good near Santiago, and projects like Santiago Solar promise a more renewable future for the capital.
Although Chile has made a lot of progress in terms of the low-carbon transition, thanks to growing success in renewables and recent commitments by the national government. Since 1990, Chile’s emissions have increased by 115%, barely meeting its current national commitments under the Paris Agreement, and woefully inadequate in a warming world. Despite its increasing action on climate change, Chile has not signed the Escazu Agreement, a landmark agreement in Latin American and Caribbean countries to protect indigenous peoples, the poor and other vulnerable communities, to protect environmentalists and increase public participation in environmental decision-making. Can be affected by local environmental projects (Chilean experience of this).
The good news is that Chile’s recent surge in solar energy puts the country on track to surpass its own renewable energy targets. In 2013, Chile passed a law requiring 20% of its energy to come from renewable sources by 2025; According to some estimates, the country has already exceeded this by six years. In April 2019, President Piñera set a new target of 70% renewables by 2030, which would exceed Chile’s original Paris commitment by 20 years.
In June, Piñera presented a new plan for carbon neutrality of all economic sectors by 2050 and the complete elimination of domestic coal production by 2040. However, many local groups in Chile believe that the time frame for removing this coal is not long enough. Isolated communities are often disproportionately burdened by the environmental and health effects of coal pollution, and there are 28 coal plants, many of which are clustered in five “sacrifice zones.” The slow phase-out of coal conflicts with Chile’s goal of carbon neutrality, which, if achieved, would be in line with a 1.5°C world. In October 2019, Chile released a new draft Paris pledge, one of the first countries to do so, targeting peak emissions by 2027.
In addition, Chile is now focusing on low-carbon transportation, in part to address air pollution issues. Chile’s national goal is to electrify all of the country’s public transportation systems by 2040 and to achieve 40% electrification of private vehicles by 2050. Santiago’s metro system runs on 60% renewable energy, and the city has now installed nearly 300 electric buses. Largest fleet outside China opens its first electric bus
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