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An electric power system can be broken down into three main areas, namely, generation, transmission and distribution.
Electricity generated at a power station is usually carried, by high-voltage transmission lines, to local distribution networks before reaching end-consumers such as factories and homes.
Chile, for example, has several independent power systems, or grids, as larger systems can be called. Authorities are working to link the country's northern SING grid with the central SIN grid so that power generated in the north can be transmitted to the country's energy-hungry central zone.
Electric power system integration is seen as a way to provide more homes with access to electricity, lower costs and increase energy security. Some success has been achieved in other parts of the region. Countries in Central America, namely, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama, created the Siepac regional grid which involves some 2,000km of 230kV transmission lines.
There has long been talk of integrating South America's power systems but little progress has been achieved. The decades-old initiative to link South American power grids has yet to overcome technical issues as governments show a lack of political will to spur investment, according to industry officials.
Countries including Peru, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Bolivia will have to prove interconnection is technically and economically viable and overcome differences in their regulatory systems before looking for financing to build hundreds of kilometers of power lines, said César Butrón, head of Peru's grid coordinator COES.
"The initiative has been around for decades. We have to improve institutionalism to be able to integrate the region," Butrón said at the BNamericas 5th Latam Power Generation Summit in Lima. "It's going to depend on whether there is the political will."
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