Chile: Going Dark Without Clean Energy

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Written By: Emma Websdale

If your idea of an energy crisis is gas prices over US$4.00, or if you think blackouts are only a concern 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.

3128485453In late September 2011, 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 outages, 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. The energy then needs to work through an out-of-date power grid that struggles to meet the demands of a modern developed nation.

The Core Issue

Chile needs to spend money updating its power grid, but instead, its entire energy budget is spent acquiring fossil fuels. Chileans flirted with the idea of building nuclear plants to combat the problem. However, with the Fukishima disaster, those ideas have come and gone.

One natural solution to the challenges Chile faces is the implementation of renewable energies. 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 their own borders as they move toward energy independence.

In an attempt to curb Chile’s dependence on imported fossil fuels, President Sebastián Piñera signed into law in October 2013, a new target that doubled the nation’s renewable energy supply. Already exceeding its current 5% goal, Chile has now replaced its previous target of producing 10% of the country’s power by renewable sources by 2024, with a target of 20% for 2025.

Though Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) is not immediately available in Chile, the technology does have potential application in numerous tropical and sub-tropical zones, where 3 billion people live. OTEC is now part of the renewable energy conversation around the world.
Onshore OTEC PlantIt’s base-load, clean power, and associated fresh drinking water production are causing people around the world to take notice. This interest is reflected in the fact that Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation now has multiple projects to build OTEC plants in Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Ocean locations, where its customers are shaping their own energy future for many of the same reasons Chile is making changes.

If you agree that life is too good to be spent sitting in the dark, then why not help us spread the word on how OTEC can light up countries with clean energy. You can either join us on Twitter or Facebook, or read more about our technologies here.