Universities take the lead, leaving the government behind – Awdhesh

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Last April, the Adolfo Ibáñez University (UAI) launched the first Energy Transition Center (CENTRA) in the country, which aims to reduce the gap in the development and transfer of scientific and innovative solutions to the challenge of energy transition.

By Marina Parisi, Energy Magazine

Santiago de Chile.- Isn’t the Ministry of Energy supposed to be leading initiatives of this kind? Daniel Olivares, Executive Director of CENTRA, academic of the Faculty of Engineering and Sciences of the UAI and Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering, answer these and other questions in the following interview.

What are the main objectives of CENTRA?

We will address the challenges associated with the development of the value chain of clean fuels; the role of energy in the evolution to an industry 4.0; the development of smart and sustainable energy cities and communities; and the massive integration of renewable energies into the electrical system.

Who make up the center?

Although today we are about twenty UAI academics, with extensive experience in regulation, energy markets, planning-operation of energy supply systems and development of technological prototypes, we are committed to adding new members from the industry.

Is the bet to delve into electromobility and green hydrogen?

Chile acquired voluntary commitments, after signing the Paris Agreement, which aim to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

This implies decarbonizing everything that can be decarbonized and electrifying everything that can be electrified. This is the greatest transformation that our society has experienced in history.

Hence the importance of designing markets that incorporate mature or conventional technologies, such as wind energy, photovoltaic solar energy, energy storage systems (batteries), electromobility, and, by the way, green hydrogen.

How do you move towards a matrix with low emissions, efficiency and competitive prices?

For this, our center not only has engineers, but also scientists, who are seeking and researching new sources of renewable energy, as well as innovative technologies that take advantage of conventional renewable sources.

In fact, today we have on the radar new developments in batteries, new and better hydrogen electrolyzers, flexible solar panels and low-cost geothermal energy.

Considering the energy transition goal proposed by the government, shouldn’t the authority lead the creation of an initiative like CENTRA?

Not all initiatives aimed at developing affordable, friendly and sustainable supply systems need to originate from government.

But, Claudio Huepe has repeatedly stressed the importance of the energy transition for Chile…

What we see, on the one hand, is that our center plays a critical role in informing decision makers, both in the public and private world, about the risks and the potential value associated with modifying our energy system.

On the other hand, we have witnessed some vertical integration initiatives that can be tremendously successful, in collaboration with the government and without direct intervention from the public world.

Tesla is an excellent example: a private sector player that has made valuable contributions to the development of electromobility in the United States and the rest of the world. Their products have an important aspirational component.

How do you evaluate the management of the Ministry of Energy to date?

I believe that the current administration has had to deal with a number of contingent issues, which have prevented it from implementing its work plan of medium and long-term objectives until now.

These issues include the risk of insufficient electricity supply identified by the National Electrical Coordinator; the end of the electricity supply price stabilization mechanism (PEC) together with the need to extend it to avoid further increases; low competition in the liquefied gas market; and the continuous price increases of different energy players.

What are CENTRA’s expectations regarding the management of the Ministry?

We hope that once the contingency mechanisms are implemented, the ministry will be able to return to a long-term agenda, based on mitigation and adaptation to global climate change.

What do you think about the government’s pilot plan “Gas at a Fair Price”?

The “Gas at a Fair Price” plan prepared by the government in conjunction with some municipalities, based on which ENAP will directly sell up to 100,000 cylinders of liquefied gas at a discounted price to end users, is a direct measure to control increases in the hydrocarbon price.

Will it ease the pocket of the most vulnerable families?

Understanding that the initiative is a support mechanism for the most vulnerable users, it is positive to the extent that its coverage can be extended to the entire customer base that requires support.

Will it have any effect on the low competition in the liquefied gas market?

In my opinion, its impact on the intensity of competition in the sector will be very limited, with other potentially more effective measures to be considered in a future bill.

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