2 November 2017

The Chilean electricity sector confronts climate change

Robert Rosner

Rosner is the William E. Wrather distinguished service professor in the departments of Astronomy and Astrophysics...

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In most countries, the challenge of balancing national energy needs against environmental constraints and climate change impacts is complicated by constraints on available energy resources and political tensions among stakeholders. One might think that a nation fortunate enough to have renewable energy resources sufficient to provide for any conceivable energy demands in the foreseeable future would find these social stresses reduced. Chile, however, provides a case study of the counterexample: Its renewable energy resources – if fully exploited – are sufficient to satisfy Chile’s electricity needs well into the remainder of this century. But because of the politics surrounding energy and the environment, this country has great difficulty in incorporating its abundant existing natural resources in a plan that would meet anticipated energy demand. But Chile could meet its energy needs and climate change obligations by pairing the country’s large renewable energy resources with the types of energy storage facilities that have proven practical and economical elsewhere in the world.