Chile’s Endesa says no new coal

Chile’s Diario Financiero newspaper reported on 27th July that one of Chile’s largest generators, Endesa, will no longer build coal plants in Chile and has abandoned the controversial Punta Alcalde coal project. Endesa is owned by Italian utility Enel, which in March announced an agreement with Greenpeace that it would phase out future investments in coal. Endesa’s announcement is likely due to a combination of pressure from Enel and strong community opposition to coal plants in Chile.

The Punta Alcalde coal plant had been punta-alcalde1-620x330the subject of intense opposition and a lawsuit in Chile which challenged its environmental approval on the basis of the heavy pollution it would impose on the already over-polluted Huasco region in the far north of the country. In January this year Endesa announced it would be suspending Punta Alcalde due to the additional costs of deploying expensive pollution control equipment mandated by the courts.

The latest news that Endesa will not build any more coal plants in Chile is significant, as the generator has been a substantial promoter of coal and big hydro projects in the past. Endesa has announced that its electricity generation growth plan will concentrate on smaller hydro projects and natural gas.

Chilean environmental groups have been pushing the government and utilities to harness the country’s plentiful renewable resources instead of building more large hydro, coal and natural gas plants. Endesa’s latest decision will not meet all the demands of environmental groups, but does demonstrate that the pressure from the environmental movement for a paradigm shift in energy investments in Chile is being felt by utilities. Last year, Endesa was also forced to abandon its controversial HidroAysen hydropower project in Chilean Patagonia due to public opposition.