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Chile Envisions Integrated Latin America Power Grid

Latin America Herald Tribune, SANTIAGO, Jan 13. 2012

Chilean President Sebastian PiñeraPresident Sebastian Piñera said his government’s efforts to promote a more transparent and competitive electricity market will make it possible for Chile to connect its power grid with those of other Latin American countries.

Both aims are part of his administration’s “eight-pillar” strategy to promote the development of Chile’s electricity industry over the next 20 years, the president said in a speech on energy policy Thursday at a convention center in this capital.

Piñera also stressed the importance of achieving electricity interconnection with neighboring countries, such as Argentina, under a legal framework that offers guarantees to Chile.

The right-wing billionaire, who took office in March 2010, said the eight pillars also include promoting non-conventional renewable energy and energy efficiency and increasing hydroelectric power production.

He said the other goals are to establish new air-quality standards for thermoelectric plants, build a previously announced “public electric highway” (a proposed national trunk network) and improve environmental legislation.

Implementing the eight pillars will imply important changes “because there was no strategy, no road map, before,” Piñera said in the speech.  “This is a path worth taking and will allow us to stay ahead of the game,” said Piñera, who at no point referred to staunch opposition from environmental groups to the construction of new hydroelectric power stations and transmission towers in Patagonia.

In early December, the HidroAysen joint venture unveiled its proposed route for a transmission line that would be used to transport electricity from hydroelectric dams in Chile’s far south to the heavily populated central region, a project that will involve construction of as many as 1,700 high-voltage towers at a cost of $3.8 billion.

The environmental-impact study for the dam complex was approved in May amid fierce protests from people who oppose the flooding of those lands in the Aysen region. The transmission line, however, has not yet been approved.  Dozens of environmental groups filed complaints with the environmental commission in Aysen that approved the study and demanded it reverse its decision.

The five hydroelectric dams to be constructed by the joint venture, owned by Endesa Chile and Chile’s Colbum, are to be built on the Baker and Pascua rivers in a pristine, sparsely inhabited area that is not connected to Chile’s main power grid.

Updated: 2016/06/30

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