New Constitution, Social Rights and Energy Cooperatives in Chile

In 2019, the Chilean population went through one of the moments of greatest social tension since Chile regained its democracy in 1990. After 30 years of democratic transition, where the social, political and economic development model imposed during the dictatorship remained practically unchanged, tens of thousands of people spontaneously converged on the streets to give an unequivocal message: the model had reached its end and needed to be changed.

In the midst of this revolt, the political forces at the time were forced to reach an agreement that they called “the agreement for social peace and the new constitution”. This agreement opened an institutional process through which Chile is today facing one of the most important elections in its democratic history. On September 4, a plebiscite will decide whether the Constitution that will govern Chile will continue to be that of 1980 or a new one that has been written in an unprecedented and inclusive process, by 154 democratically elected Constitutional Convention members, with gender parity and seats reserved for indigenous peoples.

The right to affordable, secure and cooperative energy in the new Constitution

The text drafted by the Convention members introduces relevant changes in the architecture of the State.

Perhaps, what is most striking about the proposed new Constitution is the large number of social rights that the text enshrines, contrary to the previous Constitution, which practically handed over the basic needs of the population, such as education, health, and retirement pensions, to the market.

Within the range of social rights, the document enshrines the right to a “vital minimum of affordable and safe energy”, which must be guaranteed by the State. This is not without relevance in Chile where, according to the Energy Poverty Network, 22.6% of households spend too much on energy and 16.9% of them limit their energy expenditure. The text states that the State “promotes a distributed, decentralized and diversified energy grid, based on renewable energies and low environmental impact”, and that it also “protects energy cooperative companies and self-consumption”.
In other words, it seeks that the development model of the electricity system be based on associative and cooperative forms.

The DGRV promotes cooperatives with distributed energy generation

The DGRV intends to continue with its efforts in the elaboration of a Guide for the creation of Community Distributed Generation Cooperatives in Chile.

These efforts were initiated in 2019. On this particular occasion, the DGRV hopes to contribute to the development of experiences through the training of social organizations, professionals and public officials.

Once trained, the DGRV will support these organizations, especially those that are most interested, by advising them in their decision-making process, technical preparation and drafting of bylaws. This process is expected to culminate with the creation of the first Solar Energy Cooperative that will supply a significant portion of the energy consumed by its members. This project is aligned with the changes and transformations that the approval of the new Constitution is expected to bring.

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