Chile faces up to its energy crisis

By the Potencia correspondent
According to some estimates, the world now consumes four times as much energy as it did four decades ago. And there are experts that warn this demand could triple in the next 40 years. It is no surprise then than some regions of the world are experiencing an energy crisis as they struggle to accommodate this rising demand.
Chile is no exception. According to a rationing decree published by President Sebastian Pinera, Chile's Central Interconnection System, or SIC as it is commonly known, is struggling to cope with demand in three central regions of the South American country.
The rationing measures come as a direct reaction to the energy crisis, which has been triggered because of low water levels in many parts of the country, Noticias Financieras reports. This lack of water is in particular causing energy supply problems in the regions of Valparaiso, O'Higgins and Metropolitana, according to the government's official decree.
Some of the measures being taken by local authorities include: lowering the voltage of the energy delivered, better management of the water in the hydroelectric dams, promoting a reduction in consumption by energy-intensive clients and short-term energy shortages. By law all these measures can only be implemented until 31 August of this year.
The lack of rainfall Chile has served to deepen the crisis in the hydroelectricity sector in the country. According to the Minister of Public Works, Hernan de Solminihac, the water accumulated in hydroeletric facilities has fallen by 32 per cent compared to last year.
Some analysts have also pointed out that the Chilean authorities did not mention the transmission limitations that have cause the Rapel central to be unable to supply electricity. Limitations in transmission have been highlighted as key reasons behind the crisis.
In fact, Sebastian Bernstein, former executive director of the country's energy commission, has said that beyond the drought problems, the transmission problems are key to tackling the current energy crisis, Noticias Financieras reports.
Official sources, however, have told local media, that transmission problems were omitted from the decree because they cannot by law be used as reasons to apply this legal tool.
For every kWh of deficit that affects users, they will receive a compensation of $196.8, according to the official document. This compares to $147.3 per kWh offered during the previous crisis as compensation.
It has been reported that SIC will cover most of this cost, while the distribution companies are awaiting a mandate from the Fuel and Electricity Superintendence to apply a lower voltage - reduced by 8-10 per cent in urban areas and between 10 per cent and 12.5 per cent in rural areas, Noticias Financieras reports.
As a result of the drought affecting Chile, the government decided at the end of March to delay the annual change of clocks an hour back until the first Saturday of May and an hour ahead to the third Saturday of August.
Traditionally Chile has changed its clocks by mid-March but the measure seeks to soften the blow of the unusually dry weather, Europa Press reports. This is not the first time Chile has experienced an energy crisis and delayed the summer time change. The government delayed this in 1989, 1997, 1999 and 2008 in an effort to save energy.
With the delay, authorities hope to maximize the use of sunlight, save energy and avoid a deepening of the crisis like other South American countries have experienced, the report continued.
The lack of rain has also led authorities to consider using other sources of energy to generate power, ranging from coal to nuclear, Agence France Presse said.
Chile is not the only country in the region having to cope with an energy crisis. Uruguay, for example, has also been struggling with a drought. This and the rising price of oil have contributed to the elevated costs of energy production in this country.

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