Bachelet declares start of coal power phase-out in Chile

'Decarbonized Development'

SANTIAGO – President Michelle Bachelet has declared Chile will not build new coal plants, beginning talks to replace existing capacity with cleaner sources.

The country’s energy ministry has secured an agreement with its major utilities not to build any more coal plants, unless they are fitted with technology to pump the emissions underground.

A working group will develop a plan to replace existing coal capacity, Bachelet said on Wednesday. The fuel generated 35% of the South American country’s electricity in 2015.

Environment minister Marcelo Mena, tweeting the announcement, described it as “the beginning of the end of coal”.

While no end date was given for burning coal, the announcement aligns Chile with a group of countries committed to closing down one of the dirtiest forms of power generation.

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The U.K. and Canada are leading the campaign to “power past coal”. As of December 2017, they had signed up 24 other countries, including France, Mexico and New Zealand, but not including Chile. Eight sub-national governments and 24 companies also joined.

“Congratulations Chile, looking forward to welcoming you to the Powering Past Coal Alliance,” the Marshall Islands environment minister David Paul tweeted.

Chile’s electricity companies pledged in the joint statement to deliver the country’s goal to generate 70% of power from renewable sources by 2050.

The companies, which include Enel, ENGIE and AES, have agreed to form a joint working group, a schedule and the conditions for the phase out of coal-fired power plants.

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Coal is said to currently account for around 40% of Chile’s energy mix.

The International Energy Agency recently said the nation has made significant process in developing its renewable energy potential.