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[SANTIAGO] The German government has pledged up to US$126 million to fund Chilean research into renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The Chilean minister of energy, Marcelo Tokman, announced the agreement during an official visit to Berlin, Germany, this month (10 October).

A spokesperson for Chile's National Commission of Energy told SciDev.Net that the German government will donate US$11.5 million and lend up to US$114.5 million.

During the visit, Tokman also formally accepted an invitation for Chile to become one of the founder countries of the new International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

IRENA — an initiative led by Germany — aims to promote the use of renewable energy sources such as solar energy, wind power, regenerative biomass, wave and tidal power worldwide.

It will also support national energy planning, research centres and technology transfer, especially from industrialised nations to developing countries.

"The invitation to become a member of this agency is a recognition of the work the government is doing to boost sustainable energy development in Chile by promoting non-conventional renewable energies and energy efficiency," said Tokman in a press release.   

Chile is currently carrying out research into geothermal, solar and wind energy, especially in remote areas of the country. Most research and projects receive state subsides.

Chile's first wind power park looks set to become part of the Chilean interconnected energy system by the end of this year.

Chile's National Commission of Energy says the country can expect wind power capacity to increase from 2 megawatts to over 100 megawatts by 2010.

A bill on renewable energies — waiting to be approved by the Chilean parliament — aims to increase renewable energy from its current level of 2.4 per cent to eight per cent of total energy production by 2020.