United Nations Environment Programme
Chile makes bold air quality commitment with new energy strategy
The Government of Chile today (4/3) announced the adoption of a new district energy strategy to improve air quality for its citizens at the 3rd Sustainable Energy for All Forum, a meeting of around 1,000 high-level representatives from government, business and civil society to push for action on universal access to clean, affordable energy.
Air pollution is responsible for 4,000 annual cases of premature death from cardiovascular diseases in Chile, costing US$8 billion per year in medical expenses and lost labor productivity, according to the first environmental report from the Ministry of Environment 2014.
"Our cities are struggling to tackle air pollution from burning firewood for heating. This is causing an urgent health crisis for our citizens," said the country's Environment Minister Marcelo Mena. "District energy provides the infrastructure to use diverse clean, local energy sources for heating, such as waste heat, geothermal, and heat pumps, helping to address air pollution.
"In collaboration with UN Environment and its partners, we have initiated Chile's first district energy strategy. This strategy will set in motion the policies and investments required to demonstrate and scale up this solution in our cities and regions. We are considering up to US$60 million in soft loans and financial instruments to support this vital solution as part of our sustainable heating strategy."
Temuco, a city of 290,000 inhabitants in Chile's south, is one of the cities that has signed up to receive support from UN Environment's District Energy in Cities Initiative, a public-private partnership. Temuco's air quality is the third-worst in Chile, with dangerous pollutant concentrations five times higher than World Health Organization standards. Some 94 per cent of this air pollution is attributed to wood burning for heating single-family homes.
UN Environment's preliminary assessment in Temuco reveals that a hybrid district energy project could reduce particulate emissions and greenhouse gases by 99 per cent. Furthermore, by implementing a hybrid district energy approach using biomass cogeneration and heat pumps, some individual homeowners could reduce their costs for space heating and domestic hot water by up to 25 per cent.
Lessons from Temuco and other cities, such as Renca (a commune of Santiago), are shaping government efforts to eliminate particulate emissions from the heating sector. These assessments are helping to identify policies, regulations and financial instruments that will be included in the national sustainable heating strategy.
"We must transform our urban systems to meet the challenges of sustainability and climate," said GEF CEO and Chairperson Naoko Ishii. "Through this partnership, we can provide awareness raising, policy advice and technology transfer directly to sub-national governments ready to take action.''
"We need to set ambitious targets for energy efficiency and renewable energy use in our cities if we are to achieve our climate goals," said Ibrahim Thiaw, Deputy Executive Director of UN Environment. "The District Energy in Cities Initiative, led by UN Environment, is a unique platform for the public and private sectors to work together on district-level solutions to national and global problems."
Helping cities meet the sustainable energy development goal and follow the Paris Agreement is the overarching objective of this Initiative, whose success relies on knowledge transfer within its public-private platform. Since its creation, the Initiative has provided policy advice and completed several techno-economic studies on the potential of implementing district energy in countries such as India, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Chile.
The Initiative is now in its third year and welcomes new partners and contributors.
"As co-convenor of the District Energy in Cities Initiative, we are delighted to have worked with UN Environment and its many partners to provide expertise to the development of Chile's roadmap on district energy," said Danfoss President of Heating, Lars Tveen. "Knowledge dissemination and expertise around proven solutions like district energy through this Initiative combined with the vision of mayors and country decision-makers to develop the sustainable city of tomorrow has made this work in Chile an exemplar of the impact of public-private partnerships."
"Decarbonization and decentralization are at the heart of our energy transition strategy. Sharing our private sector district energy systems expertise with local governments, helps them draw up the master plans that will ensure continuous and independent supplies of clean, safe and environmentally-friendly energy for their communities. If they reach their goal of making their communities healthier by eliminating carbon-heavy and noxious power generation techniques and incorporating sources of renewable energy into their base, that will also make for a healthier planet and will help us reach our own goals," said Pierre Loyer, President and CEO of ENGIE Services North America.
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United Nations Environment Programme