Chile is emerging as a possible hub for solar energy development. Green Power Conferences will host its first Chilean renewable energy congress in Santiago this fall in order to bring solar businesses and investors together in a country with growing potential.
“Our clients are all very interested in the Chilean renewables market,” said Jo-Anne Duff, research manager with UK-based Green Power Conferences. “Now is a fantastic time for Chilean renewables.”
Chile’s economy is growing, which means its demand for energy is also on the rise, Duff said. And the South American nation isn’t interested in adding dirty power to what is already one of the cleanest mixes of energy in the world. Only about 58 percent of the country’s power comes from so-called dirty sources like coal, diesel and natural gas. The rest is hydro power with a tiny percentage coming from other renewable sources.
The country has maxed out its hydro capacity unless it embarks on controversial new projects, Duff said. With all of that in mind, Chile has pledged to get 20 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2020. That’s no small feat, especially since the government wants clean energy to compete on the open market and isn’t offering and subsidies or incentives to drive solar or other renewable power adoption.
Even without subsidies, Duff said solar power is competing. “Energy prices are high in Chile,” she said.
As incentives are eroding in Europe and the United States, countries like Chile that have high energy prices and no incentives to get rid of are looking more and more attractive to solar and renewable energy development companies. “Chile is higher and sunnier than some of the bigger solar markets and potential capacity was estimated at 100-gigawatts in 2010 whilst there is no subsidy for solar,” Duff said.
The Atacama Desert only has 30 cloudy days a year and stays cool at night because of its elevation, which makes it an ideal location for solar. The company already has an estimated 1.25-gigawatts of solar projects approved or in the licensing phase, Duff said. And that’s without any prodding from government.