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NEWS: Environmental review of HidroAysen transmission line to begin, March 2012

The Santiago Times reports this evening, “The HidroAysen project is an estimated US$10 billion energy project headed by Endesa and Colbún. It would place five dams on two of the largest rivers in southern Chile, and transfer the energy through 1,864 miles of transmission lines to central Chile.”

When will the environmental review on the transmission lines take place?
The news report says, “The next step of evaluating the proposed route for the transmission lines will begin in March 2012 by the Environmental Evaluation Service.” Dow Jones frames it as, “While HidroAysen’s five generating units already received environmental approval in May, the environmental impact study for the transmission line will be handed to regulators in March.”

What is the status of the legal challenge?
In June, a Chilean appeals court suspended the plan to build the dams on the grounds that the government commission that approved the project had not taken into account a technical review. But then, “the Puerto Montt appeals court in early October rejected several proposed injunctions protesting the approval for the HidroAysén project’s first phase.” The environmental review of the transmission lines had originally been scheduled to begin this December, but was delayed because of the court challenges. The legal challenges against the project will next go to Chile’s Supreme Court.

Who will build the transmission lines?
Transelec – the Chilean company believed most likely to build the transmission line – is controlled by Canada’s Brookfield Asset Management, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, and the British Columbia Investment Management Corp. But now Dow Jones reports, “State Grid Corp. of China, the country’s near-monopoly power distributor, is interested in developing the nearly 2,000-kilometre transmission line for Chile’s massive HidroAysen hydrogeneration power project, daily newspaper El Mercurio reported… Company executives at State Grid recently met up with their counterparts at Endesa and Colbun and offered to finance and build HidroAysen’s transmission line, El Mercurio reported.”

What will be the route of the transmission line?
The proposed route of the transmission line was to involve an 80-metre wide logged corridor through 14 national parks, nature reserves and conservation areas.

But the Natural Resources Defense Council reported last week, “After months of negotiation, HidroAysén and Energía Austral reached an agreement to share a transmission corridor. By sharing Energía Austral’s existing corridor, HidroAysén hopes to limit the environmental impact of transmitting its energy by land through Chile. Earlier in the week a proposed underwater cable provided yet another alternative to HidroAysén’s energy transmission quandary. President Piñera met with environmental and energy authorities last week to discuss the feasibility of this idea which would conduct the energy produced by HidroAysén under water to Santiago in an effort to avoid wiring the energy 2400 miles through 66 communities and nine regions, a plan which has been heavily criticized for its environmental impacts. This alternative requires more research and is in consideration along with the recent proposal to route the energy through Argentina.”

This evening, the Santiago Times reports, “Julio de Vido, the Argentine minister of planning, met Monday afternoon with Chilean Energy Minster Rodrigo Álvarez to discuss allowing electrical transmission lines to pass through Argentine territory. No concrete plans were made, but de Vido made it clear that Argentina is very open to the possibility.”

More information
To read Council of Canadians blogs on the HidroAysen project, please go to http://canadians.org/blog/?s=hidroaysen.