Chile’s solar power capacity is currently very small, but if recently approved plans come to fruition, a massive surge is coming. The country’s renewable energy agency (Centro de Energias Renovables) has greenlighted 3.1 GW of photovoltaic projects and reportedly is considering another 908 MW.
Currently, less than 5 MW is in operation or under construction, according
to one source. However, another says 155 MW of non-hyropower was under construction in mid-September 2012. Only about 4 MW of this is likely to be solar, as Chile is also developing its excellent wind resources, as well as biomass. The government has set some ambitious goals, such as 20% of energy from renewables by 2020 from 9 GW of new clean power plants.
At any rate, having approved a huge amounts of plans doesn’t necessarily translate into the same number of finished operational facilities. The chief barriers to turning documents into functional power plants are financing and permitting. To address the first barrier, the Executive Director of CER, María Paz de la Cruz, was seeking a new funding instrument.
An NRDC analyst made a significant point about the upside of setting very ambitious goals, even if they are not met: “But if just two-thirds were to become operational, that would still be roughly 6,650 MW of capacity from renewables, or very nearly one-third of the total 20,000 MW that the government says the country will require by 2020.”
Some South America countries — Uruguay for example — are going after renewable energy development with an admirable zeal. Doing so is not only good for reducing climate change emissions, it is likely to be beneficial economically because it also decreases dependence on foreign oil.