Hydropower at Front and Centre of Energy Debate in Chile, Once Again
Peredo agreed that the decentralisation of power generation is of strategic importance.
“Distributed generation (power generation at the point of consumption) must without a doubt be discussed in this country. It makes a lot of sense for electricity to be produced locally,” he said.
In 2014 the Patagonia Without Dams movement won a major victory when the government cancelled the HidroAysén project, which would have built five large hydropower dams on wilderness rivers in Aysén to generate a combined total of 2,700 MW of energy.
But now the movement was dealt a blow, with the approval by a special Committee of Ministers of the construction of the Cuervo dam – a decision that can only be blocked by a court decision.
The project, developed by Energía Austral, a joint venture between the Swiss firm Glencore and Australia’s Origin Energy, would be built at the headwaters of the Cuervo River, some 45 km from the city of Puerto Aysén, the second-largest city in the region after Coyhaique, for a total investment of 733 million dollars.
Energía Austral is studying the possibility of a submarine power cable and an aerial submarine power line, to connect to the central grids.
The controversy over the plant has heated up because it would be built in the Liquiñe-Ofqui geological fault zone, an area of active volcanoes.
“It poses an imminent risk to the local population,” Torres warned.
Peredo said “the project was poorly designed from the start, and will not be managed well.”
“They failed to take into consideration important aspects, such as the connection of the Yulton and Meullín rivers at some point, which could have disastrous consequences for the ecosystem,” he said.
Opponents of the dam say they will go to the courts and apply social and political pressure, in a year of municipal elections.
“We have one single aim: to keep any dams from being built in Patagonia, and that’s what’s going to happen,” Torres said.
Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes
Pictures for this story
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- General Carrera Lake, the second-largest in South America, in the Aysén region in Chile’s southern Patagonia wilderness, a place of abundant water resources. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS