Chile’s transition to a green-energy economy with a mature solar market is getting major support from a nation almost 12,000 kilometres away. The Italian Chamber of Commerce in Chile is making it a priority to channel Italian know-how and experience in sustainability and renewable energy into Latin America’s most advanced solar market.
Among other activities, the Chamber has joined forces with Solarplaza for Latin America’s first conference dedicated to solar operations and maintenance (O&M), Solar Asset Management LatAm 2016, on September 28 and 29 in Santiago de Chile. “It is important to create the right conditions for long-term investment in solar across Chile,” saidOlivier Lunghini, general secretary for the Chamber.
“That means improving the knowledge base of local companies and also educating investors and other players in the sector. Italy’s mature solar sector is well placed to help with this transition.”
Chile is ideal for the development of solar energy because it has one of the highest irradiation levels in the world, he noted. And Italian companies have been instrumental in bringing the market to its current level of maturity. For example, one of the Chamber’s partners, the Enel Group, is one of the major players in the Chilean solar market.
This month it completed a 97 MW project, Carrera Pinto, to add to a renewable energy portfolio that also includes the 160 MW Finis Terrae and 1.5 MW La Silla plants, giving it a total installed PV capacity of 258.5 MW in Chile. More generally, Chile’s dominant utility, Endesa, also belongs to Italy’s Enel, giving Italian interests a privileged position in the Chilean power market.
With many Chilean solar plants now moving from development to operations, Italian expertise could be critical in helping to introduce efficient O&M practices. At the end of 2015, Italy had almost 19 GW of installed PV capacity, versus 848 MW in Chile, according to the Renewable Capacity Statistics 2016 report from the International Renewable Energy Agency.
This capacity allowed solar to meet 7.8% of Italy’s total electricity demand in 2015, amounting to 24,676 GWh, a 13% increase on 2014 levels, the transmission grid operator Terna said in February. Chile is fast playing catch-up, however. While Italy ranked fifth worldwide for cumulative PV installations between 2001 and 2015, based on data from the Global Solar Demand Monitor: Q2 2016 report by GTM Research, it is due to drop to 24th place between 2016 and 2o20.
Meanwhile Chile, which came 15th for cumulative installed capacity from 2001 to 2015, will continue to show strong demand for solar projects into the next decade, with GTM Research forecasting 4 GW of cumulative PV demand up to 2020. “As Chile’s solar market advances it is critical for the industry to be able to learn from the experience of more developed markets such as Italy,” said Lunghini.
“At the same time, there are increasing opportunities for Italian companies in the Chilean market. Our aim at the Chamber is to facilitate exchange between both markets, for the benefit of all players. We are also still focusing, through our focus groups, on the dissemination of best practices; communication plays a key role.”