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[Herald Interview]Chilean minister hails ‘win-win’ opportunity in clean energy

Chilean Minister for Energy and Mining Juan Carlos Jobet speaks to The Korea Herald in Jung-gu, Seoul.
Chilean Minister for Energy and Mining Juan Carlos Jobet speaks to The Korea Herald in Jung-gu, Seoul.
Developing clean energy is a win-win opportunity for both Chile and Korea, as both are open economies with access to the wider market through the Pacific Ocean, Chile’s Minister for Energy and Mining Juan Carlos Jobet said in an interview with The Korea Herald.

Jobet said Chile has vast renewable resources, powerful solar irradiance and ample wind resources for producing clean energy that the country wants to share with the rest of the world.

With Korea’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, Jobet said the two countries could take relations to a new level, starting with green hydrogen.

Korea and Chile last week signed a memorandum of understanding on expanding cooperation in the low-carbon hydrogen sector.

Citing the agreement, Jobet said the two countries have good foundations for cooperation.

“The countries that have the better resources to produce renewable electricity are in a better position to produce green hydrogen,” Jobet said.

The South American nation aims to be one of the biggest producers of green hydrogen, produced without fossil fuels, with Jobet forecasting that the clean fuel will make up between 10 percent and 20 percent of global energy demand by 2050.

The minister said the main concern is reducing the cost of producing green hydrogen, which still hovers around $4 per kilogram.

“It has to go down to below $2 to be competitive with fossil fuels and to do that, we need big projects,” Jobet said.

Pointing to recent disruptions in the global energy markets, weighed down by coal shortages in China and surging electricity costs in Europe, Jobet said that Chile offers competitive prices and reliability as a supplier of clean electricity.

“Chile was the first country in Latin America to develop a national green hydrogen strategy and we have been helping other countries develop their own strategies too, we don’t see these as a competition, we want to collaborate,” he said, adding that the aim was to build a coalition of Latin American countries that would supply renewable energy.

With Chile currently still depending on imported fossil fuels for 70 percent of its energy consumption, Jobet said much more needs to be done to reach its climate goals. Chile has pledged to end coal use by 2040.

According to Jobet, Chile has already phased out 20 percent of its coal capacity. More coal-fired plants, equivalent to two-thirds of its coal capacity, will be ready for decommissioning by 2025.

“We are moving very quickly to replace the coal, we are developing renewables,” he said.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Chile still aims at developing 6 gigawatts of solar and wind capacity in 2021, doubling the capacity in just one year, the minister said.

Jobet, who also oversees the mining sector, considers mining essential for the clean energy transition. He said the world needed a lot of copper, lithium, cobalt, nickel, raw materials and components critical to renewable energy and lithium-ion batteries that power electric vehicles.

He denied claims that mining is damaging to the environment and must be stopped.

“It’s flawed and it’s dangerous because if we stop mining, we will slow down the energy transition,” Jobet said.

Separately, to enhance cooperation between the two countries in renewable energy, Jobet said Korean companies can take part in building infrastructure, technology, and utilize big data to build a digital ecosystem.

“I see (a lot of room) for collaboration,” he said.

By Sanjay Kumar (sanjaykumar@heraldcorp.com)
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