With 23 energy storage projects already approved, totaling an impressive 3,000 MW of capacity, Chile is at the forefront of innovation and efficiency in Latin America.
During its recent participation in COP28 in Dubai, Chile not only reaffirmed its commitment to renewable energy, but also highlighted its focus on energy storage as a fundamental pillar of its energy strategy.
With 23 energy storage projects already approved, totaling an impressive 3,000 MW of capacity, Chile is at the forefront of innovation and efficiency in the region.
The technological diversity of energy storage projects in Chile is remarkable. From battery storage systems to innovative projects with gases such as CO2, the country is exploring different solutions to meet changing energy demands.
Chile and renewable energies
«Everyone is watching Chile closely, which was amazing to us,» said the President of the Board of Directors of the National Electricity Coordinator, Juan Carlos Olmedo. Olmedo and board member Jaime Peralta represented this oversight entity for the Chilean electricity system at COP28, as reported by the Diario Financiero.
According to Olmedo, «Everyone approached us with questions when they saw the numbers on variable renewable energies, which are among the highest percentages in the world. In addition, we are an isolated system, so we face even greater challenges as a network, compared to other countries that have strong international interconnections.»
Specifically, he adds, «They are watching us very carefully, in terms of the measures we have to take. They are impressed by the speed with which we are decarbonizing and the penetration speed of renewables.» He says that this is occurring without the existence of subsidies, pressure or regulations, as was the case with Germany, which involved an agreement on a government level for phasing out coal mines with a horizon of more than 10 years.
He says that in Chile, «in less than five years, there has been a significant phase-out of thermal power.»
When asked how difficult it is to continue the decarbonization process, Olmedo stresses that it depends on the companies and the extent to which they introduce technologies to help phase out thermal plants.
Along these lines, he highlighted the interest generated by the tender for synchronous condensers that the organization is promoting to maintain the strength of the networks.
The push for storage
In the presentations made in the Chile Pavilion at the climate conference, Olmedo revealed that the national electricity system emissions have dropped by 20% per month compared to the previous year and by around 30% compared to 2019.
Today, there is a prevalence of renewable generation. By the end of November, 59% of energy was renewable, considering all sources. Wind power grew 12.5%, hydroelectric power 17%, solar power 16% and thermal power dropped 15.3%.
Likewise, levels have reached several hours a day with peaks above 90% of hourly renewable contribution. Specifically, hours above 90% have been on the rise and in November accounted for 17% of the hours in the month.
One of the breakthrough technologies in recent times on a local level has been energy storage, a topic that was also covered by the Coordinator in presentations, with new figures on its evolution in Chile.
Olmedo revealed that 460 MW of installed BESS (Battery Energy Storage System) storage capacity is already in operation. In addition, as of November, there are 23 projects with approved open access requests, with almost 3,000 MW of capacity. Of these, 10 are generation projects with storage capacity and 13 are exclusively storage projects.
Open access requests involve projects that are under development. In other words, these are requests to connect to the system and include a determination of the availability and/or security of connection.
In reference to these figures, Olmedo comments that «in proportion to the size of our system, these figures are quite large. These figures also impressed them (presentation participants), as well as the interest in a diversity of storage technologies. Not only electric battery, but also thermal battery, and there is a company working with a gas storage project, specifically CO2, which is an emerging technology that also promises to be quite competitive.»
Projections for energy in Chile
In late July, the National Electricity Coordinator presented a study of energy storage in the national electricity system that considered a 20-year horizon, focusing on the medium term from 2025 to 2032.
Among other conclusions regarding the results for the storage systems, the Coordinator pointed to a location mostly in the far north, which involves a high installed capacity and a concentration of major consumption.
This involves durations in the range of six to eight hours due to the expected oversupply of energy during sun hours, and an installed capacity of between 1,000 and 4,000 MW in the 2026-2032 period.
Likewise, according to the study, the greatest economic benefits were expected for 2,000 MW of batteries by 2026.
The President of the Board of the Coordinator commented that conference participants highlighted the importance of having resilient supply chains and that the main challenge is the installation of plants and the development of both high voltage and distribution transmission facilities. They also added a just transition to this.
Chile is positioned as one of the most attractive countries for investment in renewable energies. Natural sources, such as sun and wind, are abundant in the country, while the availability of water is driving the development of green hydrogen.