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Chile speeds up plans to close coal plants, to retire half its fleet by 2025


Closures will be 15 years ahead of previous deadline

Follows Engie announcement to convert three coal plants in Chile to gas

Chile plans to close half of its coal-fired power plants by 2025, 15 years ahead of a deadline to eliminate the fossil fuel from its power mix, Energy Minister Juan Carlo Jobet said April 28.

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"We are continuing to consolidate the age of clean energy and leaving behind the coal age," the minister said.

Under an initial agreement signed by the government and power companies in June 2019, eight plants with 1,000 MW of installed capacity were due to close by 2024. Six were taken offline by the end of last year.

Since then, AES Gener, Enel and Engie have all brought forward commitments to close plants by that date, lifting the installed capacity to close by 2025 to almost 2,900 MW.

The new target follows an announcement April 28 by French energy giant Engie to refit its three newest coal-fired plants in the country by the middle of the decade.

The 377-MW Infraestructura Energética Mejillones (launched in 2019) will be modified to run on natural gas while the Andina and Hornitos plants (169-MW and 170-MW, respectively), launched in 2011, will run on biomass, the company said.

Engie said it expects to invest Eur1.5 billion ($1.8 billion) converting the coal plants, reducing their emissions by 80% or 5 million mt of CO2 equivalent from 2016 onwards.

"This is the equivalent of removing 30% of Chile's cars from the roads," the energy ministry said in a statement.

The company also announced that it plans to build 2,000 MW of solar and wind capacity, double its previous commitment.

The plan to end coal-based generation is central to Chile's commitment under the United Nations' Paris Climate Agreement to achieve net carbon neutrality by the middle of the century.

Speaking at the US-led Leaders' Summit on Climate last week, President Sebastian Pinera explained that Chile would take advantage of its huge potential in renewable energy, including solar and wind, to wean itself off fossil fuels and to become a major producer of green hydrogen "and thus help other countries to decarbonize their own energy supplies."