Diario El País / September 17, 2010
Jorge Rosenblut, Chairman of Endesa Chile
"Chile must use the sources of energy within its grasp"
The vast energy potential in Chile requires a precise analysis. Jorge Rosenblut is in a privileged position to do so, as President of Endesa Chile, subsidiary of Enel-Endesa, one of the world's largest integrated economic groups in the energy business. There are challenges on the table such as the HidroAysén project -five hydroelectric plants flooding a surface area of 5,910 hectares in the Region of Aysén- and the development of energy in Chile in the 21st century.
What are the projections of growth that Endesa calculates for Chile?
A 6% growth in the economy (foreseen by the government for this year) should assume a similar value for electricity demand. This signifies doubling, in 12 years, the installed capacity that we have in Chile at this time. Therefore, if the Central Interconnected System (SIC), which currently supplies 90% of the population, has more than 11,500 megawatts of capacity, in 2022 we should have many more additional megawatts.
In this regard, the Administration has commented that, by 2018, Chile could be a developed country with the same per cápita annual income as, for example, Portugal (17,500 Euros).
This is very interesting. Not only because it presumes actually growing by 6%, but also because Portugal is the first country which, in a transparent manner, has denominated hydroelectricity as renewable energy, in both large and small projects. And, it also assumes the challenge that 60% of its electricity must be derived from hydroelectric sources by 2020. So should we adopt the same strategy as the Lusitanian country? Would it be good for us to have goals of this magnitude?
I think that if Portugal has been able to do it, it is not a bad moment for Chile to do it as well. We have a hydroelectric potential capable of making us become a nation where renewable energies represent more than 50% of our energy matrix. And all of this will be managed in an environmentally adequate manner.
Whether due to corporate vision or due to the fact that it is necessary in the era we live in, the large worldwide energy groups are concerned about promoting non-conventional renewable energies. How do you envision this?
Facing this, Bill Gates asks an interesting question: if part of the subsidies that have been destined to non-conventional renewable solutions had been invested in R+D of environmentally- friendly massive energy, but competitive in costs for the community, wouldn't it have been better? And he is talking about billions of dollars. Although it doesn't correspond to me to answer this question, it is intellectually provocative.
What are the most viable energy solutions for Chile?
The country must use the abundant sources of energy it has within its grasp and in this country there are 25,000 megawatts of hydroelectric potential. That is, more than double the amount currently being used in the system. This is an important point, but there is another: hydroelectric energy is 100% clean, 100% renewable, and 100% local.
The other technologies also have an important place, including the non-conventional renewable energies. But energy must be massive and competitive. An economy that depends on foreign trade, such as the Chilean economy, must be able to access energy at competitive prices.
And, referring to this precise need, Bill Gates talks about what he calls "intermittent energies". To develop a country requires base energy, that is, energy that is produced with a high plant factor, of 50 to 60% and upwards. To give you an idea: HidroAysén has a plant factor of 75%. This base factor, says Gates, is what provides two things: massive energy and competitive energy, that is, at affordable prices. Competitive for exportation and competitive for domestic use.
But at this time the base energy is thermoelectricity.
The country must make a decision, going back to the previous subject of Portugal. The Chilean investment plan, especially in the past 15 years, has been directed towards thermoelectricity, which is a large producer of CO2. Is this what we want to promote? Or do we want to attenuate CO2 production by promoting hydroelectricity as a base energy?
Each expert has a personal opinion about the HidroAysén project and its environmental impact. What is your opinion?
It is an initiative that balances the country's growth requirements with environmental sustainability. It will prevent the emission of 16 million tons of CO2 per year.
This is important to emphasize because there is a great deal of criticism and well known places associated to the Aysén initiative.
One of the myths that exists is that the project will flood vast zones of Patagonia. This is false. HidroAysén, when it is operating, will flood less than 0.05% of the Aysén Region. It will have a low geographical impact and a very positive economical repercussion. It will also take competitively-priced energy - as well as jobs- to a zone that currently has very expensive energy.
A far reaching issue is global warming. How should Chile face this situation ?
The way to attack it is by improving the energy matrix and boosting the use of clean energy, and that is why we propose the development of Chile's hydroelectric potential.