Aysén Bishop Denounces HidroAysén Project In Italy
 Por Campaña Patagonia Sin Represas 9 de Junio del 2010

Critics now challenge the project at shareholder meetings as well

Critics of the HidroAysén mega-energy project in southern Chile recently opened up another avenue of attack – shareholder meetings. 

Last week, Mon. Luis Infanti, the Catholic Church’s Bishop for the Aysén region, flew to Italy to speak at the shareholder’s meeting of Enel to denounce the HidroAysén project. Enel controls the Spanish company Endesa which, together with the Chilean company Colbún, is behind the project. 

The US$3.2 billion project plans to build five dams in southern Chile’s Aysén region (Region XI), two on the Baker River and three on the Pascua River. HidroAysén estimates that the project would provide 2,750 MW to the central Chilean energy system (SIC) and annually generate 18,430 GWh, 35% of Chile’s energy consumption in 2008. The SIC provides energy to 90% of Chile’s population.

Chile has traditionally relied heavily on hydroelectric power to meet its energy needs, although hydropower is often susceptible to sharp fluctuations, decreasing with drought. HidroAysén selected the Baker and Pascua Rivers specifically for their stability in water volume, in comparison to other regional rivers. 

Infanti spoke for 10 minutes at the shareholders meeting, saying, “Endesa España has entered Patagonia with force; like modern colonizers they impose their economic and political power to realize destructive megaprojects.”  

Critics say the project will destroy one of the world’s few remaining pristine regions and also destroy southern Chile’s fledgling tourism industry.  They point out that the project has the effect of consolidating most of Chile’s energy generation in the hands of two companies and that recent studies show that Chile can easily meet future energy needs without the HidroAysén project.

Critics have also comment on the more than 2,000 km long high-tension transmission lines that would carry the electricity north, along a very earthquake prone part of the country. Still, anomalies in the environmental certification process allow dam proponents to separate dam construction from the transmission lines that will be built to carry the power to central Chile. The estimated US$3.2 billion construction cost does not include the cost of installing the transmission line from Aysén to Santiago at an additional cost of US$1.6 billion.  

HidroAysén has responded to a number of concerns in its Environmental Impact Evaluation Reports (EIAs), although critics have rejected them as incomplete, (ST, Jan 26). 

Bishop Infanti traveled with Juan Pablo Orrego (of Ecosistemas) and Carlos Garrido (of Defensores del Espíritu de la Patagonia) and was allowed to speak at the meeting by the group Fundación Cultural Banca Ética (Cultural Ethical Bank Foundation), a microcredit organization which purchased shares of Enel to raise concerns about company projects they felt were destructive.  

Enel CEO Fulvio Conti defended the project, saying it would adhere to the highest environmental standards. 

By Benjamin Schneider ( \n editor@santiagotimes.cl This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

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