Chilean plans to close half of the country's coal-fired electricity generating plants by 2025, Energy Minister Juan Carlos Jobet assured Wednesday during a ceremony in which the generating company Engie vowed to either close or convert six of the oldest plants by 2024, with a capacity of 800 megawatts (MW).
According to Jobs, this will be an important step towards cutting down pollution and the emission of greenhouse gases, which would result in a better energy matrix.
The minister claimed Chile has all the conditions to stop importing fossil fuels and export clean energy thanks to its natural potential, which would allow - he said - to install 70 times more capacity than the one existing today and thus contribute to decarbonize the planet and improve the quality of life of the populations where the thermoelectric plants that run on coal are located.
In this direction, Engie has planned the construction of about a thousand MW in wind and solar projects in addition to another thousand that it had already announced in 2019 and of which several are under construction.
Environment Minister Carolina Schmidt said that climate change is still present even in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, and fighting it urgently must be part of the recovery after the health crisis. She also admitted the present changes in energy production transcend the current administration and are a State matter.
Meanwhile, Engie CEO Catherine MacGregor ratified the company's commitment to the development of green hydrogen. Intending to move towards carbon neutrality at a global level, generator Engie announced on Wednesday a plan to transform its operations in Chile, which considers the total output of coal, corresponding to about 1,500MW, by 2025.
Within the framework of COP25, it was implicitly agreed that the company's coal-fired plants would close in 2040.
After a telematic meeting between the president Sebastián Piñera and the executive president of the French group Engie worldwide, MacGregor, insisted on the company's commitment to the closing schedule of 0.8GW (800MW) of coal for 2024, corresponding to the six older plants in Tocopilla and Mejillones and whose retirement plan is already under development.
In fact, two of them were already closed in 2019, another two will close at the end of 2021 in Tocopilla; while the last two will be withdrawn from service in 2024 in Mejillones.
Added to this, as a novelty, the conversion of the three newest units located in Mejillones, corresponding to 0.7GW (700MW), was announced for 2025. Thus, Infraestructura Energética Mejillones (IEM) inaugurated in 2019 will be converted to natural gas, while the Andina (CTA) and Hornitos (CTH) thermal power plants, opened in 2011, will begin to operate with biomass.
Jobs said that “by 2025 we will have withdrawn 50% of the coal-fired plants. In this way, we continue to consolidate the era of clean energy and leave the era of coal behind.”
Engie also unveiled a renewable development plan in Chile for a total of 2,000MW, which considers the construction of around 1,000 MW of wind and solar projects in addition to the 1,000 MW already committed in the portfolio announced in 2019, and of the of which there are already 600MW under construction.
The complete plan, which considers an investment of more than 1,500 million euros by 2025, will mean an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2026.
MacGregor also reaffirmed the company's commitment to the development of green hydrogen, considering the favourable conditions in the country and the progress that the government has made to have a State policy for the sustainable growth of this technology.
Engie's subsidiary in Chile has three pilots under development in the country: Hynix, together with Enaex to produce green ammonia; Hydra, to promote the use of hydrogen for trucks in mining, and the third initiative in a more preliminary stage. We are firmly committed to our purpose, which considers addressing climate change and accelerating Engie's role in leading the global energy transition, MacGregor added.
At the end of February, the group had announced a total exit from coal worldwide by 2027.