Integrating Green Infrastructure Practices into Ongoing Expansion and Management of the Chilean Electrical Transmission Network
The energy revolution that Chile is experiencing due to the massive incorporation of variable renewable energy to its energy matrix creates an environmental paradox. The greener our energy is getting regarding climate change, the bigger the environmental footprint due to the need to build thousands of kilometers of transmission lines. Therefore, it is an imperative to improve the environmental footprint of transmission lines.
Experiences from the United States, and the recent LIFE-Elia project implemented in the European Union prove that there is a way to manage vegetation under and surrounding transmission lines that is at the same time safer, more cost-effective and more environmentally and socially sound than the current practice of cutting and pruning trees. Such vegetation management technique has been called since the 1980s “integrative vegetation management” or “IVM”, and it rests on the insight that vegetation can be a resource and not a constraint, as vegetation that will not grow to unsafe heights can be planted to crowd out tall growing trees that might endanger transmission lines.
This paper makes the case for the implementation of mandatory IMV practices in existing and new transmission lines in Chile through a three phase approach. This is not only desirable but urgent, as in the aftermath of the recent 2017 fires, vegetation management under and in the vicinity of the transmission lines in Chile has veered towards more aggressive elimination of vegetation to prevent future fires, increasing the negative environmental footprint of transmission lines. The insights of this paper not only apply to the Chilean case, but to every country that aims to incorporate renewable energy to its matrix and at the same time improve the environmental footprint of its transmission lines.