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Snapshot: Chile’s NCRE project, generation landscape

Bnamericas Published: Friday, November 18, 2022

Just over 17GW of non-conventional renewable energy (NCRE) and storage projects were in the environmental evaluation phase in Chile in October, according to a report from sector chamber Acera.

The bulk, 7.32GW, corresponds to solar PV, with wind accounting for 6.60GW. 

Officials are also evaluating 2.08GW solar-storage hybrid, 600MW of solar thermal, 560MW molten salt storage, 57MW battery storage, 55MW mini run-of-the-river hydropower, and 30MW biomass.

Developers are building 5.79GW of NCRE capacity, of which 4.49GW is solar PV and 922MW wind.

On top of this, some 29.8GW of projects have an environmental license. 

Developer appetites are being whetted by a coal-retirement plan and an overall 2050 carbon neutrality goal. Rapid NCRE growth has thrust the issue of transmission, namely the need to expand capacity, into the spotlight. 

INSTALLED CAPACITY

Considering plants that are operating as well as those in the testing phasing, Chile’s installed capacity stood at 33.0GW in October. NCRE plants accounted for 40.8%, thermoelectric 38.5%, conventional hydropower 20.6% and storage 0.19%. 

Congress recently approved an energy storage bill that outlines remuneration mechanisms for standalone projects and may increase appetite for this type of investment, needed to help support grid decarbonization efforts. The next phase involves drawing up secondary legislation to guide its implementation. 

GENERATION

From January-October, NCRE plants accounted for 32.2% of generation, far above an existing binding target of 20%. 

Energy minister Diego Pardow recently discussed in the lower house’s energy and mining committee a bill that would establish a binding target of 40% of power from NCRE sources from 2030. An associated goal is ensuring that, for each time block, NCRE plants cover at least 30%. 

Presented first in November 2021 by the then administration, the bill also establishes an energy traceability system so that electricity consumers can see how their power was generated. 

Chile’s goal is to achieve 80% of power from renewable sources by 2030 and having a 100% emissions-free grid by 2050. 

For October, NCRE plants accounted for 2.51TWh (37.3% of generation), conventional hydropower 2.15TWh (32.1% of generation), and thermoelectric 2.05TWh (30.6%), the Acera report said. Storage accounted for 260MWh.

In a context of improved hydrological conditions, hydropower output climbed 68.5% year-on-year in October, as a 190% increase at dams offset a 12.3% drop at run-of-the-river plants. This eased reliance on costly thermoelectric generation, which was down 34.7%.

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