Near Puerto Williams, Navarino Island. (Photo JSJ)

Chile’s ministry of energy has launched a programme to develop district heating in the south-central Magallanes region of Chile.

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) supported project will develop the regulatory, technology, finance and other requirements to advance district heating in the region.

As an example of the potential a 2019 feasibility study found that a district heating system could supply up to 80% of the thermal demand in Puerto Williams. The small town on Navarino Island on the south side of the Beagle Channel has 525 residences.

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With an average mean temperature of about six degrees Celcius in Puerto Williams, heating is essential almost year-round in buildings there and elsewhere in the south of Chile. Currently, the main source of heating is from firewood, which is also the main source of air pollution in the towns and cities in the region.

The district heating proposal is being developed in response to this challenge, considered one of the main problems in the area.

The Magallanes regional energy minister Nolberto Sáez said the programme will be a decisive boost for the development of district heating in the south-central part of the country.

“This option represents a real alternative and a convenient solution for this macrozone of our territory.”

District heating is expected to reduce the emission levels of particulate matter by up to 99% compared to heating with firewood. A district energy system also could improve the efficiency of air conditioning, which is another current challenge in Chile.

More than 70% of energy consumption in buildings in Chile is thermal for uses such as heating, hot water and cooking and homes account for 69% of final energy consumption in the building sector.

“District energy represents an opportunity in this regard,” commented Felipe Mellado, who heads district energy in the District Geothermal and Energy Unit of the Ministry of Energy.

The three-year project is being supported with $2.1 million in funding.