Chile to close eight coal-fired power stations

Santiago (AFP) –


Chile announced Tuesday it would close eight coal-fired power stations over the next five years as part of a plan to switch entirely to renewable energy by 2040.

The closures, announced by Chile's conservative President Sebastian Pinera, account for 20 percent of the country's energy capacity, or 23,000 megawatts.

"The steps that we are announcing today are a concrete and real way of transforming words and commitments into facts and realities," Pinera said during a speech in the highly-polluted northern city of Tocopilla.

Chile, a net importer of energy, has relied increasingly on coal-powered electricity generation over the last decade, driven largely by the end of imports of natural gas from Argentina.

Imports were resumed last year under a new agreement with Buenos Aires, leading Chile to lessen its reliance on coal.

About 40 percent of Chile's electricity generation comes from 28 coal-fired power stations. The goal is to replace them all by 2040 and become fully carbon-neutral by 2050.

Pinera has pushed Chile's clean energy transformation drive first begun under his leftist predecessor Michelle Bachelet, favoring renewable sources of energy like wind, solar and geothermal stations.

The South American country will host the 25th UN Climate Change Conference, COP25, in December.

The shutdown of four coal-fired plants in Tocopilla -- as well as others in Iquique, Puchuncavi in the center, and in the southern city of Coronel -- will reduce annual Co2 emissions from the current 30 million tonnes (tons) to four million by 2024, the government said.

Once they are shut down, the plants will remain mothballed in a state of "operational reserve," ready to be called into service in an emergency at any time over the following five-year period, Pinera said.

Chile stepped in to host COP25 after Brazil withdrew following the election of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, a notorious climate change skeptic.