The desert sun of the Atacama, underground heat beneath the Andes Mountains, the wind of the Coquimbo region, the water of the Maule River. Chile boasts all the right credentials for hosting the COP25 (“Conference of the Parties”) on Climate Change, which will be held in the country from 2 to 13 December. In recent years Chile has become the leader in South America in clean energy, and it has been adept at exploiting its available renewable sources, and decisive in showing the way forward to a carbon-free future.
The top spot in the renewable energy market
“There is no Planet B. We have enough time to organise COP25, but we are running out of time to stop climate change becoming a tragedy,” explained Chilean president Sebastián Piñera at La Moneda Palace in Santiago, Chile, in April as he unveiled the logo and themes of an event that will bring representatives of 196 countries to the Chilean capital.
A few weeks later the president announced the goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 with an ambitious programme to close 28 coal-fired power stations by 2040, eight of which will be closed within five years, thereby accelerating the energy transition well ahead of the targets set in Paris in 2015.
The latest Climatescope Report, which was dedicated to emerging markets and published by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), ranks Chile as the most attractive country in the world for the development of clean energy, followed by India, Jordan and Brazil. According to BNEF, this record was mainly made possible by three factors: government policies, the success of investments in renewables and a commitment to decarbonisation, in spite of the limits of the energy grid.
The share of national installed capacity generated from renewables increased from 32.8% in 2013 to 45.5% in 2018; during the same period solar energy production increased 750-fold and wind power seven-fold.
Enel Chile’s leadership in renewables
Spanning a length of over 4,300 kilometres, Chile is not only the American continent’s longest and narrowest country but it also possesses a veritable mosaic of various natural resources. They range from deserts to the glaciers of the Andes, from volcanoes to Pacific islands. It’s a unique landscape that our Group has managed to understand and harness in full respect of both the environment and local communities. Enel Chile - through Enel Green Power - is the nation’s largest operator when it comes to renewable energy, with 4.7 GW of installed capacity. This leadership was possible thanks to a mix of technologies that includes hydroelectric, wind, solar and geothermal energy as well as the development of pioneering projects such as Enel Green Power’s Cerro Pabellón facility (a joint venture with Enap), South America’s first geothermal plant and the first of its kind to be constructed 4,500 metres above sea level. This is in the Atacama Desert, which is where EGP has also constructed the La Silla solar power plant, one of the most innovative in the world; it also powers the prestigious La Silla astronomical observatory.
What’s more, last year saw the opening in Santiago of the new Renewable Energy Control Room, the continent’s only facility capable of monitoring all four renewable technologies together, guaranteeing the maximum efficiency in the supply of energy to the national electricity system.
There are also numerous sustainability projects that we are promoting in order to benefit both local communities and the environment, such as those in La Isla-Salto La Olla Natural Park, to safeguard biodiversity and protect a culture that has existed for millennia, or the initiative that provides off-grid renewable energy to the small town of Ollagüe, situated at an altitude of 3,600 metres on the border between Chile and Bolivia.
Enel Chile’s leadership in clean energy led to the signature at the end of July of our Group’s largest renewable energy supply contract in terms of annual volumes: Enel Generación Chile will supply the multinational Anglo-American with up to 3 TWh a year of renewable energy for 10 years; this will enable the company to reduce its CO2 emissions in Chile by more than 70%.
At the cutting edge, also in electric mobility
Our Group’s decision to work towards the decarbonisation of the country is further confirmed by the commitment to develop electric mobility. The end of July also saw an extra 100 electric buses arriving at the Port of San Antonio. This was part of the project involving Enel X, Metbus and BYD Chile that has already seen 100 fully electric buses deployed on the streets of the capital. A further 83 buses are due to arrive by the end of the year. This project has meant that Chile sits in second place worldwide, after China, when it comes to zero-emission public transport.
“This new milestone for electric mobility is just part of the wider picture of the energy transition being led by Enel,” explained Paolo Pallotti, General Manager of Enel Chile. “This year we signed a commitment to the decarbonisation of Chile that will involve the closure of three coal-fired power stations in the country: we have already obtained the authorisation to bring forward the closure of one of these, while the only energy projects we are creating now are based on renewables. All of these actions aim to support Chile’s transition towards a cleaner energy model.”
Climate change, looking ahead to COP25
In spite of the fact that it produces a mere 0.25% of global CO2 emissions, Chile is one of the countries most vulnerable to the consequences of climate change. The World Bank has forecast that the climate emergency could alter the frequency and intensity of many phenomena that have threatened the country in the past, in particular floods, landslides and droughts.
President Piñera has explained that at COP25 the country will urge participants to raise the bar when it comes to decarbonisation targets. The Conference’s slogan is “(The) time for action is now”: now, not tomorrow. Chile is leading the way: let’s hope that many other countries will follow.
Update: On 5 November it was announced that the UN Climate Change Conference (COP25) would be moved to Madrid, where it will be held from 2-13 December.