"It was known as the village of day: it had electricity until 2 p.m., then it was actually left in the dark." This is how Carlos Reygadas describes the recent past of Ollagüe, a small Chilean municipality of which he's the mayor: a few dozen houses located at a height of 3,660 metres, on the border with Bolivia, amidst stretches of stone, salt flats and volcanoes. The Guardian, as part of its editorial agreement with Enel, has published a video on its website that recounts the village's new life, made possible by an EGP project that combines renewables, technology and sustainability to grant continual access to electricity to the one hundred or so families who live in the locality, thus allowing them to start a new life.
At Ollagüe Enel has built an off-grid hybrid plant consisting of 1,538 solar PV panels totalling 250 kW, a 30 kW a wind generator with storage batteries, a backup diesel and two Trinum concentration solar co-generation thermodynamic systems that simultaneously generate electricity and thermal energy. Due to the particular geo-climatic conditions, various cutting-edge technological solutions have been adopted, ranging from a vertical-blade aereogenerator to molten salt batteries, ensuring the plant's proper functioning in conditions of high radiation and low air pressure like on this plateau. Overall, the plant mainly consists of 'passive' systems, that is with few electronic components, that require less specialised maintenance and can therefore be directly managed by the community, based on the training programmes provided by Enel Green Power.
The involvement of the local community in the project, during the analysis and engineering stages up to the actual running of the plant, and the participation of different stakeholders in an integrated approach, is another innovative aspect of the successful Ollagüe project. Here in fact, a winning partnership between the public and the private sector has been achieved, bringing together the local administration and community and the academic world (the Universities of Antofagasta and of Chile) and the El Abra mine, another funding partner. The plant's management model is also sustainable, since the community itself manages the payment of charges and basic maintenance through a self-managed committee. The local administration is in charge of the supervision of the plant's operations, the administrative aspects and those regarding the use of fuel and the distribution network. Lastly, the plant's technical supervision and efficiency are ensured by a Supervising Committee involving Enel Green Power and El Abra along with the Universities.
Ollagüe is an example of a smart village, a successful application of the Creating Shared Value model that Enel has introduced along its entire business value chain. On the other hand, it also highlights the Group's commitment to ensure stable access to electricity to the more than one billion people in the world who still lack it. In fact, already four years ago Enel launched the Enabling Electricity programme that is implementing 30 projects in 20 countries to fill the so-called 'energy divide' through three types of projects: technological and infrastructural access, the removal of economic barriers, investments in capacity building. To date, over 2.3 million people across the world have already benefited from the Group's cutting-edge projects aimed to facilitate access to energy, and the inhabitants of Ollagüe have now been included in a long list of local communities that are involved in the programme, from Africa to Latin America.