By Daniel Heras (C17)
Did you know that Chile is one of Latin America’s fastest growing economies, with an average annual growth of 3.5 % and per capita income that almost doubled over the past 20 years? Did you know that Chile has passed legislation mandating that 20% of the nation’s energy portfolio come from renewable sources by 2025? Did you know that glaciers in Chile (which are critical reserves of fresh water that support human communities and wildlife where they exist) are now melting at the fastest rate, and could disappear altogether in the 21st century, according to a report compiled by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)? Well, it was these exact facts that motivated Presidio’s International Sustainability Club (ISC) to start planning a trip to Chile. Over the next few weeks, ISC will bring you a series of blogs which will capture our project in Chile.
It all began when Presidio Alum and founder of Alpine of the Americas Project, Edgardo LeBlond stumbled across these facts and realized that ISC had an opportunity to both gain and provide to this growing topic. Club members quickly gravitated towards the idea, and formulated a team that would investigate exactly how a group of Sustainable Management MBA students could add value and gain from this experience. Over the course of 2013, our group immersed ourselves in “everything” Chile and Renewable Energy, and ‘Operation Chilean Deep Dive’ began. Some of the highlights from last year’s preparation, included presentations from Amanda Maxwell, NRDC’s Latin America Advocate; Josh Berry, Environmental Director of Save the Waves; a film screening of Streams of Consequence with director James “Q” Martin; and a team retreat in Yosemite National Park to discuss the Hetch Hetchy debate, a debate that is deeply rooted in San Francisco/California culture.
Eventually our core team of 12; Devon Bertram, Scott Bright, Clayton Carlson, Shaina Kandel, Carley Klekas, Gina Melekh, Vanessa Roscoe, Sam Ruben, David Stripling, Frank Teng, Ryan Townsend, and myself; formulated subcommittees to become specialized in a variety of stakeholders. We formed committees in Environmental Advocates, Affected Local Communities, Energy Producers, Energy Users, and Government. This allowed us to become more informed on the issues of these stakeholders, and also helped start the outreach process. Ultimately our goal was to meet with these stakeholders and conduct informational interviews that would help us capture exactly what renewable energy meant for the people of Chile.
This year long venture of preparation eventually lead us to our project problem statement:
What might efficient, renewable, and distributed energy independence look like for stakeholders in Chile? How can we as students invite new perspectives and target capacity building to empower such a vision?
As you will learn later in our blog series, we re-visited this problem statement many times during our time in Chile, which was a powerful learning experience in itself, but we will save those details for later.
We officially kicked off the project in Santiago, Chile on January 6th 2014 and spent the following 12 days in meetings with over 20 stakeholders, taking in the culture, and enjoying the South American summer. Some of our project highlights were meetings with – Juan Pablo Orrego, Environmentalist and Goldman Prize Winner; Ignacio Fernandez, Division of Sustainable, Ministry of Energy; Nicola Borregard, Director of Energy and Climate Change at Fundación Chile; Donny Holaschutz and Jorge Moreno of Inodú; and many more.
As a result, we have gained many new insights and have been working on synthesizing our research findings. Our team is now decided on next steps for this process and will send updates as we make progress.
We look forward to sharing more of our experience in the upcoming blog series, so stay tuned.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Daniel Heras is native to East Los Angeles, Daniel holds a bachelor’s degree in Architecture from the College of Environmental Design at UC Berkeley. He has worked for various architecture firms throughout California serving as a Green Building professional & Sustainable Design Coordinator. Most recently, he served as an EDF Climate Corps Fellow with the City of Austin where he analyzed the City’s municipal building portfolio and energy efficiency practices and ultimately recommended four system-level energy efficiency strategies designed to improve the implementation process of energy efficiency projects for City-owned buildings. His ultimate goal is to merge his interest in environmental and social sustainability with creating opportunities for environmental education for inner city youth & helping businesses, developers, and landowners – push green building practices to the top of their agendas.