Chile • An emerging key actor in the renewable energy arena

Chile, with less than 18 million inhabitants, is becoming a strategic actor in the world energy transition thanks to its Northern Atacama Desert that contains great mineral wealth, mainly copper and lithium, and the country’s huge potential for renewable energy (RE) production.

Publication date





Germán Bersalli • Investigator, Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS), Potsdam, Germany


  1. Chile’s power sector curbing emissions: a watershed?
  2. Shifting power generation towards renewables: the Chilean path of decarbonisation in a carbon dependent economy
  3. Rise of non-conventional renewable energies sources and key economic actors
  4. Multi-level governance facilitates sub-national actors’ participation
  5. Universities’ and citizens’ participation and influential NGOs

Key takeaways

  1. Chile’s CO2 emissions from the power sector have slightly decreased over the last three years, after a three decades long surge due to coal-based electricity accounting for 39.5 % of total production, and pulled by economic growth, the booming mining activities and the annulment of recent hydroelectric dam projects;
  2. Policies for the electricity sector stand out in two aspects : investments in RE projects skyrocketed without direct public subsidies, but through quotas, auctions and recently a system of net metering; It was also the first country in South America to introduce a carbon tax in 2017, initially to the electricity sector, set at a very low level of $ 5 per ton of CO2 and which should increase progressively;
  3. The mining sector is both a major problem (37 % of electricity consumption in Chile) and part of the solution : Chile has abundant rare-earth metals that are essential for RE development worldwide. Mining companies need to accelerate their conversion to PV and concentrated solar power;
  4. The substantial shift towards clean energies has been strongly spurred by civil society : NGOs are supporting policy through advocacy and technical expertise while blocking major projects for dams, and universities partner with private actors to form clusters and accelerate;
  5. The multi-level governance system in construction recognizes the key role of Regional Climate Change Committees among other decision bodies, to address local climate issues and implement policy at all levels. Despite successful co-construction processes, the Chilean network of cities against climate change (56 members and 38 % of total population) still demand financial and technical resources to enable implementation;