Friday, August 10, 2018

Chile: Minister of Energy Promises to Update Current Geothermal Law to Aid Development

The Government will send a bill to the Congress aimed at promoting new geothermal projects (El Mercurio de Antofagasta)

The Minister of Energy of Chile Mrs. Susana Jimenez announced her Government´s commitment to develop geothermal energy saying that she will push to update and improve the current geothermal law to expedite the development of the technology in Chile. - Thanks to Gonzalo Torres Macchiavello, Country Head Chile, Energy Development Corporation for the translation.

Energy. The electric potential measured in the country reaches 3,800 MW, 72% of which is located between Arica and Antofagasta.

A possible exploitable geothermal potential that ranges between 1,300 MW and 3,800 MW, 72% of which is concentrated between the Arica and Parinacota and Antofagasta regions, was recently calculated for the country as part of the Geothermal Roundtable. To take advantage of this resource, the Minister of Energy, Susana Jiménez, announced that they will send a bill to the Congress aimed at promoting new generation projects that use this renewable source.

Effectively, the Geothermal Roundtable was a public-private meeting whose purpose was determining the current status of geothermal projects in Chile and finding solutions allowing these projects to become an economical alternative for the development of the energy sector. Similarly, identifying the advantages of its incorporation within the operation of the electricity system and finding possible actions to be taken to achieve a greater use of this energy source. 

Among its results, it concluded that there has been enough exploration in Chile to calculate the technically exploitable potential of the explored areas, ranging from 1,300 MW to 3,800 MW, and with a range of investments between US$ 9,000 and US$ 25,000 million.

72% of the geothermal potential for electricity production is concentrated in the mountain range of Arica and Parinacota, Tarapacá and Antofagasta regions.

The other 28% is distributed in the existing mountain range between the Metropolitan and Los Lagos Region. It is worth mentioning that our country concentrates more than 25% of the active volcanoes in the world.


The analysis carried out by the Geothermal Roundtable concluded that, in the short term, having an economical operation that meets the system’s safety requirements is possible.

Also, for the medium and long term, it concluded that there will be an increase in flexibility requirements in the national electricity system, determined by the high level of participation of renewable energies operating at different hours of the day.

Likewise, those who participated at the Geothermal Roundtable presented a series of proposals aimed at developing geothermal energy, as well as modernizing capacity payments; incorporating measures to integrate greater flexibility and safety within the system; and the search for international cooperation funds to maintain Risk Mitigation instruments for Geothermal Exploration.

Similarly, they recommended creating an expert committee for the decarbonization of the energy matrix; elaborating a development plan for direct use of geothermal energy and modifying Law No. 19,657 on Geothermal Energy Concessions.


As part of her visit to the last construction phase of the Cerro Dominador solar thermal project, during her stay in the region, Minister Jiménez went on to mention the results of the meeting promoted by the ministry.

“One of the achievements of the roundtable was to establish certain measures or action plans to give geothermal energy a better chance as a source of power generation. One of these measures is the decarbonization table, in which we have already made progress, and which highlights geothermal energy as a partial replacement for coal-fired generation, since it can produce energy on a permanent and secure basis,” said the minister.

Additionally, Jiménez highlighted their intention to revise the Geothermal Concessions Law and other administrative and regulatory matters.

Regarding this bill, she added that it will be subject of analysis, “but the idea is to increase the alternatives for exploration and exploitation of geothermal energy, always safeguarding the work done with communities and environmental regulations. We plan to send the bill to the Congress in 2020, but that could happen earlier than that” she noted.

The Energy Regional Ministry Secretary, Aldo Erazo, stressed that “the possible exploitable potential for this source in the Antofagasta region was identified and is greater than 600 MW. In addition, regarding the Cerro Pabellón project, the concessionary company is evaluating a project to expand the plant by an additional 30 MW, which could be completed by 2020,” he mentioned.

Unique plant in South America

On September 2017, Enel and ENAP inaugurated the Cerro Pabellón project -located in the district of Ollagüe -, the first large-scale geothermal plant in South America built at 4,500 meters above sea level in the world. It consists of two units with a gross electric output of 24 MW each, and a total capacity of 48 MW. Under full operation, it will produce around 340 GWh per year, equivalent to the annual consumption needs of more than 165,000 homes. Its investment reached US$ 320 million.