[Column] Security and energy independence: A matter of State

Friday, 22 de April

The Government recently installed in our country will be faced with an internal and international energy scenario that, possibly, was not included in the original work plans or in its proposals for sustainable energy development for Chile.

 

By Diego Morata, director of the Andean Geothermal Center of Excellence (CEGA)

 

 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has called into question the weakness of the energy matrixes of those countries that heavily depend on third parties to ensure their energy supply. In this sense, great European powers are seeing their energy matrixes falter and guidelines and strategies have quickly been set to ensure independence in the field.

Germany, without going any further, with a strong dependence on Russian gas, is working on drawing up a roadmap in search of indigenous energy sources that allow its cities to be heated without having to use gas. Even a senior leader of the European Union requested, in the middle of winter, to turn off home gas heating systems. The price of gasoline has skyrocketed in Europe and the outlook looks complex in the short term.

 

Without a doubt, this crisis generated by the ruthless Russian invasion of Ukraine is affecting us and will continue to do so in the short and medium term. Gasoline continues to rise and possibly rise even more.

 

In addition, the international competition to acquire liquefied natural gas (which accounts for almost 25% of our energy matrix) is going to be tough and it is more than likely that it will have a strong impact on the price of this fuel and its availability. Germany is already thinking of urgently implementing plants to treat liquefied natural gas and, as a new buyer of this energy source, it is going to have a strong impact on the price of this fuel. As economic specialists in our country are already indicating, these new buyers of the energy resource will generate a new status in terms of natural gas supply.

This international energy scenario is also aggravated in Chile by the terrible water shortage in which we are immersed. If we take into account that our energy matrix is ​​made up of approximately 50% fossil fuels (coal, gas and oil) and the other 50% renewables, with a strong component of hydroelectricity, some simple calculations point to a grim energy outlook for the near future. We look to the sky these days in the hope that the first autumn rains will fall. However, if this happens, a lot of water will be needed for the aquifers to be recharged and for the generation of hydroelectricity to actually cover part of our country’s energy demand.

Faced with this uncertain panorama, “non-conventional” renewable energies have much to contribute. And, although it is true that there has been a strong development of solar energy, the lack of strategies to develop geothermal energy in our country is unusual. Why geothermal? Because it is the only renewable energy that does not depend on climatic variations. The only one that can provide base energy to Chile, since the generation of electricity through geothermal energy is a proven technology, with more than a century of experience worldwide, stable and with a capacity to generate electricity 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.

In addition, the direct use of geothermal energy allows heating urban spaces. We can even talk about district heating (as occurs in several European cities), drastically reducing particulate matter emissions and considerably improving the air quality of our cities.

We have the opportunity under our feet. The geological context in which Chile finds itself is highly favorable for the development of geothermal energy, both for the generation of electricity and for its direct use. Hopefully the new authorities of this Government will value geothermal energy, in view of the approved decarbonization plan, to go hand in hand with a clean energy generation strategy that is sustainable with the environment and that grants us independence and energy security.

 

We still have time as a country, but this requires political will and the State to take charge of a basic right that we all must have: a stable and secure supply of energy for sustainable development. Betting on the renewable energies that we have in our country is gaining energy independence. Betting on a strong development of geothermal energy is gaining security for our fragile generation matrix. Energy security is a state issue.

 

You can read the publication in Qué Pasa de La Tercera here.