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Chile’s US$3.2bn HidroAysen hydro power gets go-ahead

Chilean environmental regulators have approved the 2.75GW HidroAysen hydroproject, tipped as the solution to meeting the Andean country’s growing energy requirements which are expected to rise by 80% by 2025.

The project, a joint venture between generators Endesa Chile and Colbun, will see the construction of five hydroelectric power stations – two along the Baker River and three on the Pascua River – around 1600km south of the capital Santiago. The new dam complex would deliver 20% of current capacity and lift the need for electricity rationing.

In addition, the pathways used for around 2000km of power cables and towers that will link the dams with Santiago and beyond are still subject to a separate environmental review. A further US$4bn of investment would be earmarked for it.

While there has been stiff opposition by environmental groups to the project, President Sebastian Piñera said that solar and wind-based solutions alone proposed by the green activists will not deliver adequate supply. Moreover, he considers there are few alternatives for the country, particularly in terms of nuclear power following the events in Japan. “If HidroAysen is approved it would be 100 percent in compliance with environmental legislation,” Pinera said over the weekend. “If we don’t have hydroelectric energy, there will be more coal-fired power plants.”

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