Chile Moves To Block Mega Dam Project And Support New Solar Energy …

June 12, 2014 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

Chile has moved to block a controversial dam project proposed by energy companies Endesa and Colbun that would have provided 2,750 mega-watts of energy but was fiercely opposed by environmental advocates including NorthFace founder Douglas Tomkins and his wife Kris, the former CEO of the Patagonia brand.

The project, which had been given partial approval by the previous administration of right-of-center Sebastian Piñera has now been shelved by Chile’s current president, Socialist Michelle Bachelet who entered office in March.

According to Chile’s Environment Minister Paul Badenier, ”A decision was taken to accept the community appeals and void the Environmental Qualification Resolution Resolution that approved HidroAysén; so the project is declared rejected by this administrative act.”

“This project has many aspects that were poorly thought out,” according to Energy Minister Maximo Pacheco.

Juan Pablo Orrego, the international coordinator of the Patagonia Defense Council, explained, “This decision is in line with what we’ve always said: HidroAysén’s impacts could not be mitigated, and in fact could not be evaluated.”

Environmentalists and outdoors enthusiasts have fought hard to block the project, which would have supplied Chile with much-needed electricity, but also disrupted one of the Western Hemisphere’s most pristine natural preserves.

“These giant dams would have put at risk the wilderness, traditional culture, and local tourism economy of this remarkable region,” explained Amanda Maxwell, the Latin America project director at the Natural Resources’ Defence Council, an environmental group.

Chile has moved to block a controversial dam project in Patagonia. (Photo credit: Jeremy Vandel)

Now, Chile will have to look for alternative sources of energy. “Without HidroAysen, the country is starting to turn its back on hydroelectricity – the only real remedy to the continuing dependence on fossil fuels,” Daniel Fernandez, the CEO of HidroAysen, explained.

In 2012 I spoke to former Chilean Presient Ricardo Lagos. He told me, “it’s up to [us] to make sure to take care of the environment… and at the same time use the hydro-capacity.”

“Nevertheless,” he added, “in the future we should be able to promote renewable resources.”

The arid and inhospitable Atacama desert in northern Chile is already home to solar projects operated by Abengoa Abengoa and SunEdison. The same month that her government rejected the Patagonia dam project, Bachelet traveled to the Atacama desert to inaugurate the Amanecer Solar CAP CAP project, currently the largest solar energy project in Latin America.

In her speech at the inauguration President Bachelet explained “Of course we’re taking advantage of the advantages of our geogrpahy and climate. The north of our country offers us…tremendous opportunities for clean, socially accepted energy development.”

Jose Perez, President of SunEdison for Europe, Africa and Latin America, explained: “This plant demonstrates that photovoltaic solar energy is an ideal way of diversifying the energy matrix in Chile, reducing costs and contributing towards meeting the demand for clean and sustainable energy.

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