The Health Benefits of Solar Power Generation: Evidence from Chile

This paper finds that new solar generation displaced coal as a source of energy and leads to a notable reduction in hospital admissions related to respiratory illnesses—especially for those who live within 10 kilometers downwind of a coal plant.

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May 9, 2024


Nathaly M. Rivera, J. Cristobal Ruiz-Tagle, and Beia Spiller

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1 minute


Renewable energy can yield social benefits through local air quality improvements and their subsequent effects on human health. We estimate some of these benefits using data gathered during the rapid adoption of large-scale solar power generation in Chile over the last decade. Relying on exogenous variation from incremental solar generation capacity over time, we find that solar energy displaces coal generation and curtails hospital admissions due to respiratory diseases. These effects are largely manifested in cities downwind of and near coal plants that are displaced by the introduction of new solar. The reduction in exposure to air pollution from these displaced coal plants seems to be driving this relationship. Our results help quantify the health benefits that can be achieved through greater renewable energy investments.


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