Chile’s 2,600-thousand mile profile stretches from the Atacama Desert in the north, which offers some of the world’s best solar energy potential, to the wet and windy fjords of Patagonia in the south. The country’s dramatically varied geography provides a wealth of opportunities for renewable power, yet Chile’s energy sector finds itself stuck in a rut. Nearly every major energy project in recent years has faced major citizen protests and legal challenges. In addition, energy prices have risen sharply, and the country is saddled with a coal-intensive power industry and cities clogged with winter smog from widespread use of firewood to heat houses. Energy Minister Máximo Pacheco describes the country’s energy today as “dirty and expensive.”
When he came into office last year, Pacheco announced an ambitious Energy Agenda to breathe new life into the sector. A key aspect of the agenda is a participatory, long-term planning process called Energía 2050. The goal of Energía 2050 is to rally a broad spectrum of the country behind a long-term plan that sketches out fundamental transformations and strategic steps to make Chile’s energy cleaner, cheaper, and universally accessible.
CBI’s Latin America office (based in Santiago) has been helping to guide Energía 2050 since mid-2014 together with a working team of technical and academic experts led by the Ministry. We facilitate a 28-member multi-stakeholder steering committee that is charged with developing a Road Map to 2050, the core document that the Ministry will then transform into an energy policy. We have also organized workshops across the country for citizen dialogue on key issues such as land use planning for energy infrastructure, and company-community relations in private power projects.
Energía 2050 interacts with the public on several levels. The steering committee represents many diverse interests – including civil society groups, companies and government bodies that have an important role to play, including not only the Energy Ministry but also the Ministries of Transportation and Environment. Some activist groups declined offers to participate, in part due to their opposition to controversial energy projects that the government is supporting.
The initiative has also included dozens of public workshops and meetings on a variety of topics. A website (www.energia2050.cl) provides information and updates. In the next few months, Energía 2050 also plans to conduct several “deliberative” citizen events, in which statistically representative groups of citizens will come together for carefully structured, day-long dialogues on Chile’s energy future. Participants will receive information about energy sector challenges and trade-offs, spend time in small groups deliberating and at the end of the workshop express their views in surveys. The steering committee will vet the information and questions ahead of time to ensure they are unbiased.
The feedback from these citizen dialogues will influence the steering committee as it continues its work on the Road Map. The steering committee is currently working on draft vision for 2050, and making a work plan to address key issues. The process calls for the Road Map to be ready in the third quarter this year. If the process achieves its goals, it will produce consensus-based guidance on key priorities for Chile’s energy future. By integrating core interests of government, business and civil society leaders, and citizens throughout the country, the Road Map may guide Chile to a cleaner, cheaper and more accessible energy future.