Clinton, Piñera and “a leap forward” after the earthquake: rebuilding Chile with renewables and efficiency

Yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Chile during part of her Latin American trip, meeting with Chile’s current President Michele Bachelet and President-elect Sebastian Piñera.  Both conversations centered on US assistance in the wake of the devastating earthquake that hit Chile on Saturday, but Piñera’s discussion of Chile’s need for renewables and efficiency technology are particularly noteworthy.  

When talking with President Bachelet, Clinton pledged immediate U.S. support and relief assistance.  She brought with her 25 satellite phones to assist the government in its emergency efforts, and promised that eight water filtration systems were on the way.  She and Bachelet also identified other short-term medical and electric supplies that the US will provide.

The conversation with President-elect Piñera, however, focused on more long-term solutions.  In an encouraging statement, Piñera indicated his hope and wish that US expertise in renewable, efficiency and housing technologies will be an integral part of reconstruction efforts:

“…if the United States can provide us with very good information on renewable energy, environmentally friendly energy, technology necessary to provide housing – temporary housing, to provide prefabricated housing quickly, this is going to help.”

The President-elect had already indicated his interest in developing Chile’s renewable and efficiency sectors before the earthquake.  As the country continues to assess the damage and its recovery needs, it is heartening to see that Piñera is already looking to these technologies to form the foundation of Chile’s future. 

Without question the earthquake was a tragedy.  The true extent of the devastation is still unknown, and the government expects reconstruction to cost tens of billions of dollars.  Yet Piñera’s desire to invest this money in efficiency technologies and renewable energy sources creates an optimistic vision for Chile’s future.  Such measures would provide secure housing, public services and electricity, and could make Chile an international leader in clean energy and urban planning.  As Piñera said yesterday, “Chile is now at a time in its history when it needs to make a leap forward.”  Strong renewable and efficiency sectors will surely help the country make that leap.