Unlocking the potential of energy efficiency and renewable energy

Renca joins Switzerland and UN Environment to initiate an innovative energy project

13/042018

“The thermoelectric plant wastes a potential of 95,000 MWh in the form of water steam per year. This energy could be recovered to provide heating to the entire city, including office buildings and public schools” says Mayor Castro, who adds that “the four office buildings, fourteen public schools, ten kindergartens and all the Municipality buildings, consume 9,100 MWh per year”.

The project, which is currently under study phase, will involve building a pipe to distribute the hot water from its source, the waste heat from the thermoelectric plant, to the buildings. Together with UN Environment, the Municipality formed a working group which includes private companies of the city’s industrial park to explore opportunities of connecting the industrial plants to the heating network.

According to Mayor Castro a partnership with the private companies would bring benefits to the entire city. “This is also a business for them, because private companies would pay less for this energy that is now being wasted by the thermoelectric plant. It would be cheaper for them, who have high energy costs, and at the same time it would bring benefits to the community, the offices and the schools”

Pilar Lapuente, national technical coordinator of the UN Environment’s District Energy in Cities Initiave highlights that “this Project is on study phase, this stage will finalise in December 2019. The Initiative is already working on leveraging additional funding to support a second phase and to further support the country in the development of district energy systems”.

On the benefits that district energy could bring the community of Renca, Lapuente affirms that “this project has potential to transform the city in a reference in terms of energy efficiency and on the use of local renewable energy resources”.

The Swiss Model

Renca’s energy management plan includes fighting against the “energy poverty” suffered by some of its citizens. The concept of “energy poverty” defines families that spend more than 10 per cent of their income on energy, which is for cooking, electricity, hot water and space heating. To fight energy poverty the Municipality has established a partnership with the city of Bern, in Switzerland, a city that is well known worldwide by its sustainable energy plans, and who is providing advice to the Municipality through an assessment that is measuring energy poverty in the city.

The project assessed 18 families (three per each zone in the commune) who had an average family income of Chilean $ 437,371. The study showed that the average energy expenditure of these families was Chilean $ 61.343, which represents 15% of the total family income.

Moreover, 17% of the families interviewed do not have a hot water system and 28% doesn’t have any heating system.

After the first diagnosis made by the University of Bern and after implementing the energy efficiency measures suggested by the University, the families reduced their energy expensed in 30 per cent. The University of Chile is currently following up the energy efficiency measures with the families.

Mayor Castro highlights that “we are facing two dimensions of the problem: the houses - families’ pockets, and a city level dimension on cleaner energy systems. On different fronts, we are advancing on a project that might sound bombastic, but that can generate very specific changes in the lives of neighbours. "

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Orignal Story: La Tercera

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