* Chile grappling with energy squeeze amid drought
* Government has lowered voltages to save power
* New measure will save 22 gigawatt-hours per year
* Copper industry seen safe from any outages (Updates with Energy minister comments, adds link)
SANTIAGO, March 2 (Reuters) - Chile will delay the end of its summer time until for three weeks as the country faces an energy squeeze because of drought and high demand, the government said on Wednesday.
The country will end its daylight savings time on April 2.
"This change in time looks to save a certain amount of energy with better use of sunlight," Mining and Energy minister Laurence Golborne said. "This will save around 22 gigawatt-hours per year."
Chile relies heavily on hydroelectric power to meet energy needs in the world's top copper producer, and rain shortages force generators to rely on costly fuel-driven plants, compounding inflation risks in the country's fast-growing economy.
The energy squeeze is not, however, expected to affect the mining industry, which is concentrated in the northern part of Chile.
The South American country was hit by several blackouts last year after a massive earthquake damaged transmission lines and stations in its south-central region. [ID:nN03272253] ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ > For a Take-a-Look at Chile's energy squeeze: [ID:nN14302418] ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Analysts in Chile played down the risk of energy shortages, but warned of possible blackouts given its reliance on backup generators.
They also pointed to rising prices as the country relies more on thermoelectric plants after reserves at hydroelectric dams dropped in 2010 to their lowest level in 10 years.
The central grid, or SIC in its Spanish initials, which supplies power to more than 90 percent of the population, is most likely to be hit by the energy squeeze because of its reliance on hydro power. The far northern grid, which powers miners in the copper-rich north, uses energy generated by thermal plants. (Reporting by Juan Lagorio; Editing by Simon Gardner)