Wind energy, concentrated solar power and photovoltaic energy displace coal in Chile

Projection of the Electrical Coordinator assumes compliance with the installation plan of 2,450 MW of solar, plus another 1,540 MW of wind power. Thus, the sum of these energy sources, hydro NCRE, geothermal energy and others, will exceed the contribution of coal.

Coal as a source of electricity generation in Chile has an expiration date. And while that comes, it is renewable energy that is taking over.

So much so that from this year it is expected that the contribution of non-conventional renewable sources -that is, wind, solar, geothermal, hydro NCRE and bio NCRE- will exceed that of coal, which despite the withdrawal of several units due to the decarbonization plan, maintains a contribution of more than 30% from the matrix.

This, according to data from the Electrical Coordinator, the body in charge of dispatching power plants and, as its name says, coordinating the operation of the system. According to the 2021 projection of this body, the contribution of the units already named, grouped as ERNC, will reach 35.5% of the system, versus the coal that will contribute 31.6%.

This, as long as the commitments to install new wind turbines and solar units for almost 4,000 MW announced for this year are met, of which 2,450 MW are solar and 1,540 MW are wind energy.

By technology, solar generation -mainly photovoltaic, but also solar thermal (CSP), of which a plant has already been inaugurated in the country, which at the same time is the first of its kind in South America- will be the one with the greatest contribution among the NCRE, reaching to a 17.7% stake in the system, with an expected annual generation of 13,880 GWh. This places it in third place as an individual source of electricity production, below the aforementioned coal and also conventional hydroelectricity, which although it is considered renewable energy, is not recognized in Chile as NCRE.

The contribution of these conventional hydro plants, including larger reservoirs such as Ralco, Pangue or Angostura, will reach 24.4% of the total system this year.
It is followed by wind energy production, which this year will account for 11% of total electricity generation, with 8,670 GWh expected, in fourth place and surpassing natural gas, which will reach 7.2%.

These important changes are mainly explained by the greater competitiveness that renewable sources have reached in relation to their competitors. In fact, the main electricity generators in the country such as Colbún, Enel, AES Andes or Engie have turned to developing new wind and solar initiatives and on the horizon, with the exception of Alto Maipo, in its last phase of construction, they are not in sight. new conventional initiatives such as gas, coal or large hydroelectric plants.
New capacity

This greater ERNC contribution is based on the entry of new plants. According to the April report from the consulting firm Systep, in the next 12 months 5,939 MW of new capacity is expected to come into operation, of which 3,027 MW are solar, 1,779 MW are wind, 28 MW are geothermal, 563 MW hydroelectric and 541 MW thermal. On the other hand, the retirement of Ventanas II, from AES Andes -it is AES Gener- is considered for July 2021, equivalent to 193.5 MW.

In fact, in March 2021 there were a total of 142 NCRE projects declared under construction, with entry into operations until February 2023. To this is added that in that month the Environmental Assessment Service began processing 47 new initiatives , which are equivalent to 2,903 MW in addition to those declared under construction, with an associated investment of 4,395.8 MW. In addition, the RCA was granted to initiatives that add another 785 MW, equivalent to 829.7 MW.

“We think it is very positive that the penetration of Non-Conventional Renewable Energies (NCRE) is consistently higher than the objectives that were raised in the discussion of the law. At that time, a goal of 20% by 2025 and particularly 13.5% by 2021 was thought of. This undoubtedly confirms that the decarbonization objective by 2040 can be achieved, considering that more than 90% of the new generation projects entered in the Environmental Assessment Service they correspond to photovoltaic and wind projects, and a total generation of NCRE of 22.2% in 2020 ?, highlights Pablo Demarco, commercial manager of Plataforma Energía.