Energy efficiency and smart grids in Chile


By Jean Paul Zalaquett

Climate change is a challenge for governments, society and the business world, and therefore, every one of us from our sector should be very attentive in identifying and using all the tools that are available to us in order to confront this challenge.

The fourth report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change identified energy efficiency as one of the actions that are important in the fight to tackle climate change.

An energy efficient programme can cover several aspects, including diffusion, education, services, innovations, and economic signals which are based, to a greater or lesser extent, on information. This information must be in real time, in order to transmit timely economic signals, differentiated for each user, in order to allow innovative services that maximise energy efficiency, and large scale in order to achieve the required scale of diffusion.

This leads us to think of smart grids as the logical answer to link communication and interaction between the customer and the power distributor. Thanks to communication systems in the networks, the distributor can communicate with customers in real time and eventually act for them under a preestablished framework so that ultimately it can coordinate the generation – both central and distributed – networks and consumption – in homes, industry and transport – making optimum use of the natural and economic resources.

Chilectra has structured an energy efficiency plan based on three themes – diffusion, customers and education. Diffusion contemplates a strategy to customers that implies that they will make the best decisions from an energy efficient point of view. For example, a study was carried out during the winter of 2007 in a shantytown in Macul in which Chilectra was able to demonstrate to residents the advantage of using efficient light bulbs.

With reference to customers, there is a product, “Full Electric”, which has a system of differentiated tariffs that help to save energy, as customers shift their consumption towards nighttime when there is a greater availability of energy. This is possible thanks to advanced metering.

Likewise there is “Electric Solar Mix”, which combines both energy types so as to take advantage of the best of each. Electric bicycles and motorbikes are available, and in the longer term Chilectra is preparing for plug-in vehicles.

The demand control programmes of Chilectra, which are very successful among the large industrial clients, are moving into a new phase thanks to the growing use of communications and automatisation. This will also allow them to be extended to a larger base of users.

In the education theme Chilectra believes that it must make the most of its credibility when talking about “energy” by supporting postgraduate programmes in energy efficiency, the training of teachers, and education campaigns in schools.

Chilectra’s energy efficiency strategy was initiated in 2006 and since then it has achieved the recognition of both the authorities and the public. In the long term, this strategy will only be benefited with the technological convergence between the electric networks, communications and intelligent systems, which represent smart grids.