Estimating the Willingness to Pay for Environmental Resources in the Chilean Patagonia
In this paper we assess, through contingent valuation surveys, the willingness to pay (WTP) of the population for more environment-friendly sources of energy, in the context of the proposed construction of big hydroelectric dams in the Chilean Patagonia region. We use two different data samples constructed from the survey responses: (1) A sample of Chileans currently living in Chile. These are individuals who will be receiving the economic benefits that will stem from hydroelectric dams constructed in Patagonia. Their WTP reflects the “user value” of the resource to Chileans. (2) A sample of non-Chileans or Chileans living outside Chile. Their WTP reflects the “existence value” of the natural environment in Patagonia and the expected amount people are willing to pay to protect its pristine conditions. We identify the key determinants that affect the WTP estimates. We then compare this to the real costs of generating electricity with the different currently available technologies. The WTP estimate from sample 1 would provide the Chilean governments a numerical value of the contributions Chilean residents are willing to make to protect the natural environment in Patagonia. The estimate from sample 2 will indicate the contribution that the rest of the world is willing to make in order to preserve unique natural environments and wildlife in remote places of the globe. Overall, it should be a good guide for policymaking in energy matters for developing countries.
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