Endesa Chile Calls Special Meeting of the Board Over HidroAysén
SANTIAGO — On Wednesday evening, Chilean energy company Colbún surprised the public with an announcement that it would indefinitely suspend its environmental impact assessment study of the HidroAysén dam project in Patagonia. Colbún, who currently holds a 49 percent stake in the massive project, was scheduled to produce a comprehensive analysis of the ecological impact of the 2,500 kilometer transmission line that would bring electricity from the dam itself to the surrounding areas.
Some analysts are looking at the decision as a display of dissatisfaction with an ambiguous government policy on the project. Others wonder if it is a sign that the company has lost faith in their investment. Whatever the motivations, the announcement has demonstrated to the public that the future of HidroAysén is still unclear.
Now, however, Endesa Chile, one of Chile’s largest energy companies and a 51 percent stakeholder in the project, has called an emergency meeting of the HidroAysén board in order to discuss the matter further.
It appears that Colbún’s decision may not be final after all.
HidroAysén is a US$10 billion joint venture between Colbún and Endesa Chile. The idea is to construct five enormous dams on two of Chile’s fastest-flowing rivers, the Baker and the Pascua, located in the middle of Chilean Patagonia. After a 12-year construction period, the five dams would have a combined operational capacity of 2,750 megawatts.
In May 2011, after a three-year review of the environmental damage that the project will cause, HidroAysén eventually received the green light to begin construction.
The transmission line itself is now the target of a rigorous environmental analysis, which is likely to take years. HidroAysén has already delayed this process numerous times, but Colbún has stated that they were planning to complete it by the end of 2012.
If they do decide to suspend the study, it will be difficult to predict how long the delay will be.
In a public statement, Endesa reaffirmed its “permanent commitment to national electrical development” as well as its “historic mission to provide Chile with clean, sustainable, renewable, local energy such as hydroelectric.”
The HidroAysén project will involve flooding over 5,000 hectares of land in Southern Chile for its construction. It has been widely criticized by environmental organizations as well as local residents.