Part of the reason for the push, said Gabriela Elizondo, a senior energy analyst at the World Bank, is that severe weather events like droughts and floods have made hydropower plants less reliable, leading governments in the region to diversify their power sources.
“This is the main reason nonconventional renewables, meaning wind, solar and geothermal, have started to take off, especially in the last five years,” Ms. Elizondo said. “They’ve taken off in a really spectacular way.”
A decade ago, several leaders in the region became concerned that their energy sectors were buckling. After an era of sustained economic growth, during which millions joined the middle class, energy consumption shot up. Few nations were as vulnerable as Chile, which has almost no domestic sources of fossil fuels and was left in a lurch in 2007 when Argentina abruptly cut off natural gas shipments.
“We had a sector with very few actors, little competition and high prices,” said Chile’s energy minister, Andrés Rebolledo.