Chile Energy Situation

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33.4333° S, 70.6667° W

Total Area (km²): It includes a country's total area, including areas under inland bodies of water and some coastal waterways.


Population: It is based on the de facto definition of population, which counts all residents regardless of legal status or citizenship--except for refugees not permanently settled in the country of asylum, who are generally considered part of the population of their country of origin.

19,603,733 (2022)

Rural Population (% of total population): It refers to people living in rural areas as defined by national statistical offices. It is calculated as the difference between total population and urban population.

12 (2022)

GDP (current US$): It is the sum of gross value added by all resident producers in the economy plus any product taxes and minus any subsidies not included in the value of the products. It is calculated without making deductions for depreciation of fabricated assets or for depletion and degradation of natural resources.

301,025,249,438 (2022)

GDP Per Capita (current US$): It is gross domestic product divided by midyear population

15,355.51 (2022)

Access to Electricity (% of population): It is the percentage of population with access to electricity.

100.00 (2021)

Energy Imports Net (% of energy use): It is estimated as energy use less production, both measured in oil equivalents. A negative value indicates that the country is a net exporter. Energy use refers to use of primary energy before transformation to other end-use fuels, which is equal to indigenous production plus imports and stock changes, minus exports and fuels supplied to ships and aircraft engaged in international transport.

65.24 (2015)

Fossil Fuel Energy Consumption (% of total): It comprises coal, oil, petroleum, and natural gas products.

74.65 (2015)

Source: World Bank

Energy Situation

Wind Energy

At the end of 2010 there were 170 MW of wind power installed and in operation in Chile. That puts Chile in third place in Latin America, after Brazil and Mexico. The existing wind farms account for about 1 % of the country´s total electricity generating capacity of 15.500 MW and account for roughly 0,5 % of electricity produced.To date another 1.925 MW of wind power capacity have successfully undergone official environmental impact assessment. Another 231 MW are still awaiting environmental approval, and it can be assumed that private investors will keep showing great interest in the Chilean wind market, and will keep presenting further projects for approval in the future. In 2010 325 GWh of wind energy were generated in Chile. Compared to that in 2015 2.080 GWh of wind energy were generated (+640% compared to 2010), which shows the great growth of the wind energy market in Chile. At the end of 2015 a total of 898,9 MW wind power was installed in Chile (+530% compared to 2010) and the generated power by wind farms accounted for 2,9% of the total electricity generated by the chilean energy system.

The positive development of the Chilean wind market is also reflected by the fact that numerous important wind energy companies are now present in Chile. In 2010, for example, Vestas opened an office in Santiago with a capacity for 25 employees. Also GL Garrad Hassan now has a permanent representative in Santiago. Furthermore, several German project developers are present in Chile, among them Eolic Partners, juwi, SoWiTec, and wpd.
However, the question is which share of the impressive project-pipeline of more than 2.000 MW of wind power projects will actually be implemented. On one hand, at times of rocketing spot-market prices, numerous projects with just mediocre wind conditions were presented for approval. On the other hand, there are several obstacles which are not always easy to overcome.Since in Chile no feed-in-tariff exists, electricity from wind farms must be sold either through bilateral PPAs to large off-takers or simply on the spot-market. Only those projects at very good wind sites have good chances of achieving a profitable PPA. From January to October 2010 prices on the spot-market lay between 120 and 135 US$/MWh, but they are subject to volatility.A further difficulty lies in obtaining project finance, at least when debt-financing is to be supplied by a Chilean bank. Although almost all banks in Chile show strong interest in ERNC, they are still quite reserved when it comes to actually financing projects, which has to do especially with a lack of knowledge concerning their risk-assessment.And finally, limited grid-capacities in some areas present a further barrier to a fast implementation of wind energy projects in Chile.Nonetheless, Chile is decidedly moving forward in the quest to increase the amount of renewable energies and reduce barriers. The current discussion about renewable energies in Chile is fueled by president Sebastián Piñera´s proclaimed goal, to increase the share of ERNC in electricity generation to 20 % by 2020, which is clearly more than defined by the current legal quota.

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Wind Mapping and Measurements in Northern Chile

The development of wind energy is being supported by the Chilean government through wind potential analyses, among others. Despite of the large existing project pipeline, such support is of very high importance, due to the fact that numerous projects have been planned at sites, which under current framework conditions hardly allow for profitable operation. Even the existing wind farms (with exception of small projects in the south of the country) have so far only reached capacity factors between 17 and 24 % in 2010. A tool that stands out is the so-called „Explorador Eólico y Solar“, which is a map of wind- and solar potential with a resolution of 1 km2,covering Chile from the extreme North to south of Puerto Montt. This map was elaborated using the Weather Research and Forecasting Model (WRF) and uses meteorological data from global weather models as input-parameters. The „Explorador“ is publicly available on the internet-pages of the Chilean Energy Ministry ( and can also be downloaded for use with Google Earth. Comparisons with actual measurements show that the simulation has a slight tendency to underestimate the absolute wind potential, but it represents very well the differences in wind potential between different sites, and hence, can be used as a reliable tool when searching for locations for wind project development.

In fact, the “Explorador” served as the basis for an ongoing cooperation-project between the Chilean government and the German International Cooperation – GIZ (formerly German Technical Cooperation – GTZ), which is being financed by the International Climate Initiative of Germany´s Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety. The project´s aim is to identify state-owned lands which are suitable for wind power development, and to make these available for private investors. The search for suitable lands focuses on the Atacama Desert in the Antofagasta-Region in northern Chile where a large share of the land is owned by the state, and due to the numerous copper-mines, excellent transport- and electricity-infrastructure is available. And there is lots of wind.

Using the wind-potential map 20 locations were identified where since August 2009 wind measurements are being carried out using 20m-towers (Picture 1). Some interesting findings have been made so far:
The wind roses usually have two clearly pronounced main wind directions, which alternate during the course of the day (Picture 2). This behavior is also reflected in the wind speed frequency distributions, which usually have two peaks, and therefore cannot be represented by a regular Weibull-Distribution (Picture 3). At some locations these wind characteristics are so extreme, that the average wind speed as a criterion for a site´s quality looses meaning. A good example comes from the measurements carried out at a location near the city of Antofagasta where the average wind speed is rather low with 6,64 m/s at 20 m height, putting this location in the lower half of all 20 sites. But in terms of power in the wind, this location achieves the second-highest value of all 20 sites with 660 W/m2. This can be explained by looking at the frequency distribution (Picture 4): more than 50 % of the measured values lie below 4 m/s, strongly reducing the average wind speed. But more than 30 % of the remaining measurement values are clearly above 10 m/s (the second maximum of the distribution lies at 17 m/s). Since wind speed enters the calculation of power with the cube, these high wind speeds very strongly increase the average power in the wind. Unfortunately, due to the limitation of power output at high wind speeds, a wind farm at this site would achieve a capacity factor of „only“ about 30 %.

Table 2 summarizes the measurement results for the period between November 2009 and October 2010 for 14 measurement masts (6 masts have been relocated, no simultaneous year of data is yet available), and compares wind speeds, power in the wind and estimated capacity factors. The calculation of the capacity factors is done using an IEA class I turbine with 2 MW of installed capacity. In lack of further information about wind speeds at greater height for all sites, it was assumed that the wind speed at hub-height is equal to the wind speed at 20 m above ground. Furthermore, a total of 14,3 % losses were assumed (non-availability of the turbines, wake-effects, etc.).
Based on the results of these wind measurements, as well as taking into account other criteria (topography, grid-proximity, accessibility, mining activities, etc.) the two most promising areas were identified, and measurement towers with a height of 80 m were installed. These are the sites B3.1 (Sierra Gorda) and D5 (Taltal). Tables 3 and 4 show the wind speeds registered in the six months of operation from May to October 2010 and the estimated yearly values deduced by MCP-analysis with the data from the nearby 20m-towers. One can observe that the average wind speed at Sierra Gorda does not continuously increase with height, but actually reaches its maximum value at about 40 m above ground, and decreases further up (Picture 5). This inversion of the vertical wind profile can only be observed with the nightly katabatic winds. At daytime the vertical wind profile is positive. However, since the night-time winds are clearly stronger, this pattern can also be observed in the overall average values. The vertical wind profile will surely influence the selection of size and type of wind turbine to be installed, in order to maximize energy yield at this location.

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The electricity prices on the spot-market had reached average values of more than 200 US$/MWh in 2008 due to the sudden end of gas deliveries from Argentina.

The renewable portfolio standard was introduced in April 2008. It obliges electricity-sellers to include a certain share of „Non-Conventional Renewable Energies“ (Energías Renovables No Convencionales = ERNC) in their deliveries of electricity.
ERNC encompass all renewable energies apart from hydropower stations larger than 20 MW, which are defined as „Conventional Renewable Energy“. Electricity-sellers that do not comply with their obligation, must pay a penalty of about 31 US$ per MWh of non-delivered electricity from ERNC (at current exchange rate), rising to 47 US$/MWh for „repeat offenders“. Since 2010 the legal quota lies at 5 %; from 2015 on it will rise in yearly steps of 0,5 % until reaching 10 % in 2024. The quota is calculated considering as a basis only those electricity-contracts, which were signed after August 31, 2007, thus leaving older contracts free of obligation. On the other hand, only electricity generated from power plants which have gone into operation since January 1, 2007, will be accredited. According to this framework a share of 7,7 % ERNC was achieved at the end of October 2010, surpassing clearly the mandatory quota. However, when considering that Chile´s demand for electricity will probably grow with more than 5 % per year throughout the next ten years, it becomes clear that ERNC will have to play a major role in the further expansion of electricity generation facilities in order to keep fulfilling the quota in the future.

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Further Information

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