|8 December 2016|

South America

A new study has revealed that South America could make the shift to a fully renewable electricity system by 2030.

The researchers from Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland also show that a 100% renewable system (100% RE) is the cheapest and can be achieved with a minimum of energy storages.

“South America has a unique renewable energy resource base since one of the best wind sites globally is in Patagonia, the best solar energy sites are in the Atacama Desert, hydro power is already used in large amounts and the sustainable biomass potential is significant. For these reasons, South America is one of the most favourable regions globally to shift to a 100% RE system,” explains Professor Christian Breyer.

In a 100% RE system the costs range between 47 to 62 euros per megawatt hour, while other options – including new nuclear and carbon capture and storage (CCS) – are 75-150% higher than that.

The cost of electricity in a 100% RE system ranges between 47 to 62 euros per megawatt hour, depending on the applied assumptions. In comparison, other options, including new nuclear and carbon capture and storage (CCS), are 75-150 percent higher in cost than the 100% RE.

The study shows the total installed capacity of renewable electricity in the fully renewable system is composed of 415 gigawatts of solar photovoltaics, 144 gigawatts of hydro dams, 39 gigawatts of hydro run-of-river, 17 gigawatts of biogas, 4 gigawatts of biomass and 69 gigawatts of wind power. The abundance of solar and wind power in South America as well as the high capacity of hydro dams means that the region does not need many energy storages. Hydro dams can be used as a virtual battery for solar and wind electricity storage, balancing generation and demand in times of lacking solar of wind electricity during the course of the year. In other parts of the world, this would require power-to-gas technology, in which electricity is converted into gases, such as hydrogen and synthetic natural gas, and converting them again back to power.

The study was done as part of the Neo-Carbon Energy research, which is funded by the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation, Tekes, and is carried out in cooperation with the two institutions and the University of Turku, Finland Futures Research Centre.