Endesa's HidroAysen project, at 2750 MW designed to be Chile’s biggest power plant, was approved by a regional environment commission in the southern city of Coyhaique.
According to Bloolmberg, hundreds of protesters shouted and banged drums outside the building as 11 of the 12 commission members voted in favour of the project that Empresa Nacional de Electricidad SA and Colbun SA (COLBUN) want to build in the Patagonia region.
HidroAysen involves five dams and a 1900 km (1180 mile) transmission line to feed the central grid that supplies Santiago and surrounding cities as well as copper mines owned by Codelco and Anglo American Plc. The government of President Sebastian Pinera says Chile needs more hydroelectric and coal fired plants to meet demand that will double in the next decade and reduce power costs that are the highest in the region.
“We have to get that energy somewhere, independent of what the project is, because energy today is twice as expensive as in other Latin American countries,” Ena Von Baer, the government’s spokeswoman, told reporters in Santiago today before the vote. “We want to be a developed country, and to become so we need energy, especially cheap energy for the poor.”
With capacity to produce 2750 MW, about 35 per cent of the country’s current power consumption, the project would dwarf Ralco, Chile’s biggest hydro-generator at about 760 MW, on the Biobio River. The project’s owners plan to seek approval for the transmission line later this year.