Curtailment of wind power and photovoltaic increase 219% as of March in Chile

Energy losses increase and reach more than 18% of the country’s wind and solar production in the first quarter The so-called energy discharges increased by 219% in the first three months of the year and already represent more than 54% of everything that was lost in 2023. The lack of growth in demand and gaps in storage systems are among the reasons for this phenomenon.

The historic momentum experienced by non-conventional renewable energies (NCRE), which in the first quarter of the year reached a record figure of 41.3% of total generation in the country, also has its less friendly side. These are energy losses, also known as discharges or reductions, and which grew at a much higher rate in the same period.

According to figures that were published last week by the National Electrical Coordinator (CEN), which reflect the monthly record of reductions in ERV plants (wind and solar) during the real-time operation of the National Electrical System (SEN), between January and In March, a total of 1,461.68 GWh were lost. This figure reflects a marked acceleration in relation to what was seen in the same quarter of 2023 and the previous quarter, when discharges reached 457.59 GWh and 1,205.54 GWh, respectively.

Thus, so far this year, energy cuts increased by 219% in the annual comparison and 21% in the comparison with the previous quarter. In addition, the discharges registered between January and March 2024 already represent 54.8% of the total for 2023, when energy losses reached 2,666.97 GWh.

But even more, the proportion of discharges on the energy generated by solar and wind sources reflects the magnitude of the phenomenon. According to the CEN, in the first three months of the year, these technologies generated a total of 7,815 GWh in the SEN. According to this, the cuts reached 18.7% of the variable renewable energy produced in Chile in the first quarter of the year. Almost a fifth of the total.

In all of 2023, according to the consulting firm Evol Services, these losses were 9.72% of the ERV plants, almost a tenth of everything generated by these technologies.

Ana Lía Rojas, executive president of the Chilean Association of Renewable Energy and Storage (Acera), assures that “this upward trend represents a significant challenge for the stability and expansion of the renewable energy sector in the country.”

“The level of cuts accumulated to the first quarter of 2024 represents an average daily cut of 17 GWh, which is equivalent to the daily injection that a 3,800MW storage system and 4.5 hours of average autonomy of the projects could make. storage that are currently being developed in the system,” adds Rojas.

Daniela Halvorsen, coordinator of the risk and regulation area at Evol Services, explains that this situation affects photovoltaic plants more than wind plants. In fact, the former explain 73.8% of the monthly total.

In the expert’s analysis, the phenomenon reflects “that today the growth in demand does not go hand in hand with the growth in the supply of daytime generation, specifically due to solar generation plants installed in the north.”

And he points out that the problem for renewable units occurs because, when they inject their energy, at those points “the marginal cost drops to zero during the solar block (therefore, they inject energy at US$0 MWh) and represents an important risk for those generators that are committed to contracts with free and regulated customers.”

However, she maintains that “rather than concentrating on reducing dumping, what we need is to reduce the risks due to decoupling in the system.”

“This problem is attacked with uncongested lines and geolocation signals to encourage new projects in areas where there is a shortage of plants that use cheaper resources (solar, wind, battery storage). But expansion and new transmission works must be evaluated based on demand and not based on supply, since all customers pay for this infrastructure and, therefore, it should not be oversized,” she indicates.
Coordinator sees opportunity for storage

For its part, the National Electrical Coordinator, the autonomous body in charge of the operation of the SEN, highlights that of the almost 1,500 GWh discharged in the first quarter, “90% is due to the greater generation of renewables during times when demand It is not enough to consume all this production. That is, the limitations in the capacity of the north-south corridor explain around 10% of the cuts.”
They detail that the phenomenon responds to “the largest solar, wind and hydraulic generation that has been recorded in these first three months, compared to the same period of the previous year.”

Along these lines, they emphasize that, when comparing with last year’s reports, close to 50% of the total cuts were explained by congestion in the transmission system, “however, if only the second semester is analyzed, and given the rainfall that occurred from the end of June onwards, 20% would be explained by transmission congestion. This is explained, mainly, by the greater hydraulic generation from the southern area,” they specify.

Another line of analysis from the Coordinator points out that the installed solar and wind capacity already amounts to around 14,400 MW, “which, although they are mostly in the northern zone (9,600 MW), also already have a significant presence in the central zone.” -south, which explains why during solar time cuts must be made in practically the entire system.”

Solar capacity alone, they point out, adds up to around 9,900 MW, “very close to daytime demand, which is between 10,000 and 11,000 MW.”

Going forward, they emphasize that the dumping situation “is an example of the opportunity that long-term storage has as a tool to take advantage of excess supply, to transfer that energy from the hours of the day to the night.” Currently, there is almost 500 MW of installed capacity in storage, which, added to the development of transmission projects, “will allow us to continue strengthening the National Electrical System, providing security of supply and allowing better use of different energy sources,” they state.

“Added to this is that as Coordinator we are promoting a tender that in a few days we will know its results, to incorporate equipment that will make it possible to strengthen the system in the northern zone and reduce the need for thermal generation during solar hours, allowing for an increase in the generation of energy from solar and renewable parks in general,” they conclude.