By: Maria Gotti | Sustainability Projects and Practice Sharing Analyst at Enel | September 15th, 2016

Cerro Pabellón, (in the municipality of Ollagüe, North of Chile), is the first geothermal plant in South America. Once its construction will be achieved, it will be also the first geothermal plant in the world built 4,500 meters above see level. Geothermal energy is a clean energy production solution and Enel, through its renewable arm (Enel Green Power – EGP) has a long-standing global expertise in the field dating back to the early 20th Century.

EGP, aware of the newness of this technology to the territory, created an itinerary exhibition starting from Chile moving through Peru, Colombia and Mexico by which it wanted to share the historical, technological, industrial and social aspects related to its use.The long preliminary site development phase has been coupled with actions aiming at identifying the key business issues in order to set up a ‘creating shared value’ approach with the local communities, as it is customary in Enel’s approach to investing capital.

The geothermal plant will be positioned in the heart of the desert of Atacama and its construction would entail powering the interested communities, but at the same time change the landscape that surrounds them. There are several small indigenous communities in the area, Quechua or Atacameños, that are highly affected by the lack of essential infrastructures and the incumbent presence of the mining industry. In this context it was crucial to start performing activities based on listening to and engaging the local communities in order to understand their perception, needs and requirements. Stimulating the engagement of the communities through these encounters enabled the business to change the original path of the transmission line accordingly and plan other types of activities that would promote the social and economic development of the communities avoiding possible disappointment and unrest in the future.

The development projects that were selected thanks to these meetings reflect the environmental, social and economic needs expressed by the local communities and are aimed at supporting the development of local enterprises led by women. The activities of these SMEs include:

- Cleaning Services in the camp: 2 SMEs (one for Cerro Pabellón and one for a project contractor) with 11 employees (2 men);

- Laundry: 2 SMEs created and contracted by the project supplier for the total volume of 1500 to 2500kg/day for the camp needs. These provide 7 new jobs (6 women).

- Kiosko: 1 SME that supplies snacks and other goods to the workers generating 3 new jobs (all women).

- Breakfast for workers: 1 SME that supplies breakfast for workers that come back from the fields generating 4 new jobs (3 men).

- Transportation: 1 SME that transports workers from the construction site to the town and vice versa which counts 5 employees (3 men).

- Community Monitoring: 1 SME created that works on monitoring environmental, archeological and infrastructural aspects working with ancestral interpretations enabling foreigners to relate to the community and understand its history and culture. This activity involves 17 employees.

It is interesting to point out that since Cerro Pabellón is in the municipality of Ollagüe, there is a link between projects that have been developed in Ollagüe and the ones that are carried out Cerro Pabellón. Elena Achu, the solar engineer trained at the Barefoot College in Tilonia, is the leader of the SME which works on providing breakfast to the workers at the camp. Following Ollagüe’s example, the 5 indigenous communities interested by the project of Cerro Pabellón will be included in a program that aims to provide access to electricity to the entire area through the installment of rooftop PV panels.

Cerro Pabellón is also an example of Sustainable Construction Site which focuses on the use of adequate material to reduce CO2 emissions through the use of sustainable resources, waste management practices and most of all it follows the model of a Circular Economy, especially by recycling waste materials for eco-construction and eco-furniture.

The environmental monitoring inspection service in the geothermal site of Cerro Pabellón provided by the Community Monitoring SME (local community workers of the area) was subject to a Preliminary Impact Evaluation. The latter calculated that with Enel Green Power’s investment the business would benefit in saving on cheaper monitoring services compared to the market value, while the value created for communities would be in the form of new job opportunities.

Thanks to this complete CSV application, Ollagüe’s hybrid solution and Cerro Pabellón’s geothermal plant have been Enel Green Power’s innovability hub winning the “Innovation” and “Renewable Projects” awards of the Chilean International Renewable Energy Congress in 2015.

Test new innovative technologies in the area. Establish a link of reciprocal interest with the communities for the project and its possible expansion in the future. Develop new economic local activities to lower the demand of subsidies and decrease the construction costs.

Increase local income, develop women entrepreneurship, increase local living standards, more investment in education thanks to new income. Safeguard the local environment. Opportunity to enlarge each service client portfolio to local industries.

Link to the video:

Project Card - Cerro Pabellon.pdf

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