Chile is located in southern South America, bordering the South Pacific ocean, between Argentina and Peru. It has a total land area of 756,950km2 with 748,800km2 land and 8150km2 water, and a population of 15.9M (July 2005 estimation, CIA Facts). The country’s total electricity production is 45,483GWh/yr, consisting of coal - 8661GWh (19%); oil - 486GWh (1%); gas - 11,485GWh (25%); biomass -1664GWh (4%); and hydro - 23,187GWh (51%) (IEA Energy Statistics, 2002).

Chile has a technically exploitable hydro power potential of about 162TWh/yr, about 12% (installed capacity of 4580MW) of which has been exploited so far; the 1999 drought and environmental opposition to hydro power projects have been factors in the low exploitation. Hydro accounts for some 60% of the electricity consumed by Chile in a typical year (International association on electricity generation, transmission and distribution).

The largest hydro scheme is the 153m high, 570MW Ralco hydroelectric dam, whose construction cost US$568M. Ralco is the second of six dams on the Bio Bio river and adds 18% to the capacity of Chile’s central electricity grid (International association on electricity generation, transmission and distribution).

Business News (BN) Americas recently reported that Pacific Hydro managing director Jeff Harding revealed during a 2004 strategic review briefing that the company is developing six new hydro power projects, with a total generating capacity of more than 600MW, in Chile’s Alto Cachapoal river. These developments include the 200MW Chacayas, 180MW Nido de Aguilas and the 110MW Alto Cachapoal hydro projects, as well as the proposed 100MW Rio Blanco, 40MW Las Dumas and 30MW Portillo and Chiloe ventures (News 7). Total planned hydro power capacity is estimated to be 3000MW.

The Argentine gas crisis revitalised Chilean hydro power projects while also encouraging the development of coal and oil-fired power plants. One new hydro power project is the 155MW La Higuera on the Tinguiririca river. Construction is expected to begin in late 2004, with completion slated for January 2008. Development of a 145MW second phase project, La Confluencia, is expected to begin in the next two to three years. Australia’s Pacific Hydro and Norway’s Statkraft Norfund Power Invest will own and operate La Higuera. Other hydro power plants under consideration include the Coya-Pangal (25MW) and an unnamed 65MW plant (EAI).

Age structure in the industry

Total labor force of Chile is estimated to be 6.2 million (2004 est.), the composition of labor force is agriculture 13.6%, industry 23.4%, services 63% (2003) (CIA Facts). Due to lack of information regarding the age structure of people working in hydropower industry, a more broad perceptive has been used for research. It uses the term put forward by International Labour Organization (ILO) commonly know as economically active population i.e. The economically active population comprises all persons of either sex who furnish the supply of labour for the production of economic goods and services as defined by the United Nations systems of national accounts and balances during a specified time-reference period (ILO).

Educational programmes

• Pontifica Universidad Catolica has a department called departmento de ingenieria hidraulica y ambiental. It offers engineering in three specialisations – one of them is very closely related to hydro power. It also offers courses that are relevant to hydro power, such as: hydraulics, hydrology, sediment engineering, watershed hydrology, and hydro power generation.

• Unversidad de concepcion has a department of Metalurgica and it offers a course named Diplomado En Hydromrtalurgia.

FilesChile profile