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2.2. Electricity supply

Table 1 summarizes the installed capacity in December 2018 in each of the systems indicated above, disaggregated in conventional sources and non-conventional renewable energy (NCRE). In turn, Figure 2 shows the installed capacities of the systems to December 2018. Updated information on national electricity sector statistics can be found in the website “Energía Abierta”[4].

Source: CNE monthly report. January 2019. CNE

The generation offer, expressed both in terms of installed capacity and the contribution of energy in the Chilean electricity sector, is presented in this section and is mainly due to the investments made by private agents and companies. Lately, this offer has been expanding rapidly from NCRE projects. In recent years, specifically since 2014, photovoltaic solar technology has considerably increased its installed capacity, mainly due to the great solar resource present in the north of the country, the low costs of this technology, the regulatory changes made to be able to integrate these new resources to the electric system and the management of the tax lands to facilitate its installation [5]. On the other hand, investments in wind and solar generation are expected to increase considerably by 2020, as will be seen later, this type of projects had a successful participation in one of the largest electric power tender for regulated customers in Chile.

The expansion of the national electricity generation plant is presented in Figure 3 in terms of its installed capacity by system, from 2006 to 2017. The  SEN (SIC y SING) concentrates 98.8% of the installed capacity and medium-sized systems account for less than 1% of the country’s total installed capacity. On average, national installed capacity has increased by 6.7% per year over the last 11 years.

Figure 3: Evolution of installed generation capacity in Chile
Sources: Own elaboration from Statistical Yearbook of Energy 2005 – 2015 and 2017. CNE.

During the last 4 years there has been a significant increase in NCRE installed capacity, especially solar and wind power, displacing biomass and mini-hydraulics as the country’s main NCRE sources. It is in solar photovoltaic technology particularly that it has been the fastest increase since it has moved from 230 MW installed in 2014 to more than 1829 MW by December 2017 and it is expected that very soon more than 281 MW of solar power will be incorporated in tests (projects interconnected in a period prior to entry into operation). Similarly, more than 115 MW of wind power is currently in testing, which would add to the current 1305 MW grid (see Figure 4). In addition, 400 MW of solar and 375 MW of wind power will be incorporated in projects declared in construction.

The dizzying solar development is due in part to the very good conditions of this resource that presents the north of the country, with the highest radiation in the world, availability of tax land for its development, the low cost of this technology in addition to favorable economic and social conditions of the country.

Figure 4: Evolution of installed solar and wind capacity

Source: Own elaboration based on report of Installed Generation Capacity and the Monthly Report NCRE. January 2018. CNE.

Despite the explosive growth of unconventional renewable technologies of the last time, the supply of electric energy in Chile still mainly consists of sources of conventional type (see Figure 5). Generally speaking, in Chile a plant is called conventional when it uses technologies that constitute the national or traditional standard and that normally correspond to very mature technical and commercial solutions. In the case of Chile, these include coal-fired power plants, combined cycle power plants, diesel engines, gas/oil turbines and, dam and run-of river hydroelectric plants over 20 MW. Considering the thermal power plants (coal, natural gas and diesel oil, totaling 57%) and hydroelectric plants (dam and run-of-river, totaling 27%) conventional generation accounts for about 84% of the national generation. On the other hand, non-conventional renewable energy sources correspond to those that use the following primary energy sources: biomass, hydropower less than 20 MW, geothermal, solar, wind and sea. More details on these technologies and generation statistics are described in section 4.

Figure 5: Electricity generation by type of technology during 2005, 2016 and 2017
Source: Own elaboration from Statistical Yearbook of Energy 2005 – 2015 and 2017. CNE.