Originally published September 9, 2021

My team is thrilled to share [that] we are now working with El Coordinador Electrico Nacional to help them meet Chile’s ambitious decarbonization goals.

Earlier this year, I joined X to lead our moonshot for the electric grid. Since joining my team and I have had numerous conversations with system operators, utilities, regulators and governments, who are telling me a story I am deeply familiar with. They are urgently trying to get more renewables onto the grid but without a complete picture of what is happening on the electric grids they manage and oversee, they can’t do so with confidence. Will they inadvertently create reliability issues? Are they actually meeting their decarbonization goals?

That’s why my team at X is working to develop a real-time, fine-grain virtualization of the entire electricity system. We’re developing tools to run simulations for any location and at any time scale (from nanoseconds to years), and make that information useful to everyone who is involved in building and planning the grid.

As I shared at the White House Leaders Summit on Climate a few months ago, tackling a problem of this scale and complexity will not b e possible without close collaboration of organizations who know the intricacies of the grid. So, I’m delighted to share the news that my team is now working with Chile’s national electricity system operator, Coordinador Electrico Nacional to virtualize the country’s transmission grid and develop new grid planning tools. We hope to provide the Coordinador with the insights and tools they need so Chile can meet their ambitious decarbonization targets which include phasing out coal by 2040 and achieving a net zero economy by 2050. You can read more about the news here.

Chile has a strong tradition of energy sector innovation and leadership. In the past decade it has rapidly scaled up renewable energy. Ideally, Chile has the natural advantage of ample solar and wind energy resources providing vast potential — from the constantly blowing winds around the Andes, to the abundant solar resources of the Atacama Desert — however, its geography also poses unique challenges and complexities.

One of the world’s “skinniest” grids, Chile’s transmission lines run a vast 4,300 km span from the sparsely-populated north of the country, to the central region where the majority of Chileans live, down to the tip of South America. Until recently, the grid was divided into two main electricity systems serving the northern and central regions. A third interconnection between the two grids recently came online. Along with these complexities demand for power in Chile is expected to grow 56%, requiring major investments in new generation as well as transmission.

In order for Chile to reliably and equitably meet its bold decarbonization goals while connecting these intricate grid systems, bringing renewable energy onto the grid AND continue to invest in generation transmission, El Coordiandor needs better tools and system planning capabilities. In addition to developing a fine-grained, near real-time virtualization of the transmission grid, my team will be working with them to develop new grid planning tools that will enable them to ask all kidneys of “What If?” questions, e.g., “what if we removed this coal plant from here and added a solar farm here? How would that impact the grid? How will that impact how Chileans get electricity?” These tools will help them accelerate their decommissioning of coal plants and compare scenarios across key cost, reliability, and emissions metrics.

These tools we’re developing with El Coordinador are the tools I desperately needed as a grid operator and regulator, and what inspired me to come to X. Artificial intelligence, machine learning and simulation have been ingredient technologies across X’s portfolio of projects for over a decade, making it possible to create safe, self-driving cars, bring visibility to our ocean ecosystem, and understand the plant world. As an incredibly complex system with so many contributing factors, visualizing and managing the grid is exactly the kind of problem that computing techniques like machine learning and artificial intelligence are uniquely positioned to help. Building on X’s track record, we’re now working to move simulation and virtualization beyond being training tools to develop whole-of-system modelling on “in the field” grid operating systems to make sense of the grid’s complexity — modelling at the sub-nano level to provide the speed and granularity needed to bring renewables onto the grid.

We’re honored to be working with partners like El Coordinador as we build these tools and provide them with the insights they need to help Chile realize its vast potential for a world-leading energy transition. These kinds of partnerships are at the core of our team’s moonshot to support the transition to a reliable, affordable, sustainable, and equitable grid.