Chile advances solar capacity technology, leading much of Latin America

Global Business

Despite being the leader in solar capacity in Latin America, the government in Santiago is pushing for even more.

CGTN’s Joel Richards explains.

Quilapilun Solar Park is one of Chile’s newest additions to its solar energy portfolio. 40 kilometers outside the capital city of Santiago, it produces energy to supply more than 100,000 homes and is viewed as a milestone in the clean energy transformation taking place in this country.

“It is interesting because it is the biggest in the central area (of the country), we are very close to Santiago,” Alfredo Solar, manager of Atlas Renewable Energy Chile said. ‘And that’s the difference between our plant and others that are far away in the north. We decided it was better to have the plant close to Santiago where the demand is and sacrifice the yield.”

Chile has some of the best renewable energy resources in the world, including some of the highest levels of solar radiation on the planet. Renewable energy currently provides around 17 percent of Chile’s total energy production.

When it comes to installed solar capacity, Chile is a leader in Latin America. By the year 2020, the government wants 20 percent of all energy production to come from renewable sources and moving forward the aim is even more ambitious.

The shift to clean power has been so rapid that the initial targets now look modest compared to what the country could achieve.

Chile’s Energy Minister said it wants to produce 90 percent of the country’s energy from renewable energy sources by the year 2050.

“In March 2014, when this government took office, energy was a problem,” Energy Minister Andres Rebolledo said. “We had dirty energy production, it was expensive, and we did not have a competitive market. What we did was change the rules of the game, giving signals to incorporate non-conventional and renewable energy to the sector. Now, we are part of major transformation, and a large amount of investment that is coming in is based on renewable energy projects.”

Chile’s renewable energy revolution has been market-driven. There have been no subsidies handed out and the shift was a response to the country’s reliance on imported hydrocarbons. And Chile’s approach has been applauded by groups working to tackle global warming.

There are still many hurdles facing the renewable energy transformation, from improving technology and energy storage to building new energy grids. But the shift away from fossil fuels in Chile is well under way.