Chile is stepping up efforts to switch entirely to renewable energy by 2040 by kicking off the process of closing eight coal-fired power stations over the next five years.
The move, though earlier than anticipated, is part of a plan to go carbon neutral by 2050 announced in early June by conservative President Sebastian Piñera.
This week, Enel Generación Chile filed for authorization by the Chilean Energy Commission (CNE) to take offline the Tarapaca coal-fired power plant by December 31.
The utility initially intended to end operations at the plant in May 2020, as outlined in the agreement to phase out coal-fired generation capacity with the Chilean government.
Move is part of the country’s ambitious plan to slash the share of coal within the electricity grid from 40% to 20% by 2025. The view is to phase out the fuel completely in 20 years.
On Wednesday, southern Chile-based coal miner Mina Invierno, laid off 150 people and began closure activities almost four months earlier than originally announced.
The move followed an environmental court of Valdivia’s decision to uphold a precautionary measure prohibiting blasting at mine as it didn’t comply with environmental standards.
The South American country, which will host the 21 leaders of the Pacific Rim for the APEC Summit in November and then UN climate negotiations (known as COP25) a couple of weeks later, estimates the announced closures account for 20% of the national energy capacity, or 23,000 megawatts.
World’s top copper producer Chile has historically been a net importer of energy. Over the last decade, however, the nation has increasingly relied on coal-powered electricity generation, mostly due to the end of imports of natural gas from neighbouring Argentina.
But shipments from across the Andes resumed in 2018, helping Chile to lessen its dependence on coal.
Currently, about 40% of Chile’s electricity generation comes from 28 coal-fired power stations. The goal is to replace them all in 20 years and become fully carbon-neutral by 2050.