Written By: Mike Straub
If your idea of an energy crisis is gas prices over $3.50, or you think blackouts are just for third world countries, you may want to shine some light on Chile. By some measures, Chile is the richest country in South America – yet they experience an energy nightmare.
In late September, millions of Chileans lost power for three straight nights. The first night was the worst, with nearly ten million people losing power on a Saturday night, including Santiago. The next day, the coastal city of Valparaiso suffered power outtages, and on the last night, most of the northern part of the country was in the dark. In one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world, this trend of power instability threatens its livelihood.
Without knowing the cause, the Chilean government tries to make major changes to the nation’s power system. Much like other countries, Chile must import the vast majority of its energy fuel – oil, coal, and natural gas – from all over the world. Then the energy needs to work through an out-of-date power grid that cannot meet the demand of a modern, developed nation.
The Core Issue
Chile needs to spend money to update their power grid, but instead, its entire energy budget is spent acquiring fossil fuels. Chileans flirted with the idea of nuclear plants to try and combat the problem. – with the earthquakes, those ideas have come and gone. Naturally, renewable energies are the answer.
Instead of looking to the Middle East, or some of its natural gas rich neighboring countries, Chile and many other nations can find power within its own borders. Geothermal, solar, hydro, and tidal power can all be put in place today and pull Chile off of fossil fuel dependency.
President Sebastian Pinera said he wants Chile to get at least 20% of its power from renewables by 2020. A lofty goal, but one that’s possible if his nation makes a commitment to clean energy.
Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) is now part of the renewable energy conversation around the world. It’s base-load, clean power, and people are starting to take notice. Recently, The Bahamas committed to building two OTEC plants for many of the same reasons Chile needs to make changes.