Chilean President Michelle Bachelet released a new Energy Agenda on May 15th, which her administration will use as the foundation for a national energy policy. The much-anticipated document outlines seven pillars, or key areas, where new and specific efforts are needed if the country is to grow sustainably and stably over the coming decades. Overall, the agenda is right on target regarding several broad issues –and a few specific ones as well— and if Bachelet and Energy Minister Máximo Pacheco are able to execute these plans, Chile’s renewable* energy and energy efficiency sectors should be able to compete with conventional energy –dirty fossil fuels and large hydro—on a more even playing ground than before.
A wide variety of people have been calling for more strategic and coherent government direction of the energy sector for years, and with good reason: existing and proposed plants have caused significant social and environmental damage; many new conventional projects are stalled in legal appeals; the booming growth of renewable energy has been stifled by a variety of regulatory obstacles; and energy efficiency—the energy sector’s “low-hanging fruit”—has been languishing in the background. As a result, experts warn of an impending energy crisis in the next few years, when the country will not have enough generation to power continued growth in the mining sector in particular and the economy at large. The Energy Agenda is this administration’s answer to those calls.
There are four high-level themes in the Energy Agenda which are particularly encouraging:
There are two more specific items in the Energy Agenda that I want to call attention to as well.
First, the document calls for the creation of a government entity devoted to the collection and analysis of energy data, similar to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Although it was mentioned just briefly in the Energy Agenda, I cannot underscore the importance of this action enough. Presently, data about the energy sector in Chile is either difficult to find, outdated or different depending on which government agency database you are using. This makes it nearly impossible for academics, private companies, the media, civil society and the government itself to know the real, accurate status of energy generation, consumption, and other indicators – information necessary to make decisions about the future of the sector.
Second, the Energy Agenda’s first two annexes list the legislative bills and regulations that the administration will pursue, as well as when the government aims to pass or adopt each one. This provides civil society and the private sector with a clear schedule of the government’s agenda, for which it can be held accountable.
Of course, the devil is in the details; these objectives and ideas will only be successful if the government can follow through and make them a reality. But if President Bachelet and Minister Pacheco are able to do so, this Energy Agenda would put Chile on the path to be an innovative, sustainable energy leader in the region and around the globe.
*The term “non-conventional renewable energy” is used in Chile to exclude large hydro (over 20 MW) from the category. For the sake of space in this blog, I use “renewable energy” though with the same intention of excluding large hydro, which I include in the “conventional energy” category.
This article was originally published on NRDC and was republished with permission.
Lead image: Chile map via Shutterstock