South America’s renewables potential waiting to be tapped


South American countries have the potential to near double their current renewables generation expansion plans, Enel research reveals.

The study from the Enel Foundation finds that the seven countries assessed could optimally deploy a combined total of 49.5GW of solar PV and 71.2GW of wind capacity by 2030.

Under current renewables generation and transmission expansion plans, the combined deployments are projected at 20.4GW of solar PV and 40.6GW of wind.

Under a high demand scenario, the capacity potentials could go even higher to over 73GW for solar PV and 95GW for wind.

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The countries assessed are Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Uruguay. The projections are based on factors including the availability of natural resources, the demand growth and the expected decrease of technology costs.

Of these countries, only Uruguay’s expansion plans are close to reaching the optimal figures and indicating that the country is aiming to optimise its solar and wind potential.

Conversely the worst performers on current projections are Ecuador and Peru, suggesting they are barely starting to tap their potential.

The study finds that in Chile and Peru, which have the best solar irradiation, the share of PV could be aligned to or higher than wind, while in the other countries – and in the whole system – wind would be the more exploited.

The countries with highest hydro generation, such as Colombia, Ecuador and partially Brazil, in general show lower optimal penetration of solar and wind.

Renewables supply 75% of demand

Should these optimal levels be reached, they would provide a production of 105TWh from PV and 265TWh from wind, covering together about 25% of the total demand in the seven countries. Combined with hydropower, which covers approximately 50%, around 75% of the system load would be supplied with renewable energy.

The study further estimates the economic benefits of the additional renewable plants at $3.6 billion in 2030 and the carbon emission reduction they would provide at about 85Mt per year.

Increased wind and solar penetration in South America will ultimately unlock new opportunities for green energy generation sources to support the whole system, including participation in the market for ancillary services, the study states. A joint development with storage would be beneficial for higher penetration and fit with PV production, reducing congestions and shifting peaks towards evening hours.

Interconnections also can support the installation of more wind and solar resources, with the potential for export of excess generation and mutual support and reserve sharing.

In order to fully achieve the potential economic and technical benefits, regulations are needed at national and international level that enable higher flexibility and coordination in the operation of the different power systems, the study concludes.

Read more about the study.