SANTIAGO, Dec 29 (Reuters) - The Chilean unit of U.S.-based AES closed a coal-fired power plant along Chile’s central Pacific coast on Tuesday ahead of schedule amid a drive by the South American nation to end carbon emissions from its grid.
Chile in 2019 signed an agreement with major generators AES Gener, Colbun, Enel and Engie to gradually eliminate the country’s coal-fired power plants, which currently produce around 40% of the country’s electricity.
The deal is part of a broader move by Chile - a country rich in wind and solar resources - to decarbonize the country’s grid and become carbon-neutral by 2050.
For its part, AES Gener decided to push forward the closure of its Ventanas 1 coal-fired electrical generating plant, and said it would close its Ventanas 2 plant in 2022. Both were originally slated for withdrawal from the grid in 2024.
President Sebastián Piñera said at a ceremony announcing the closure of the Ventanas 1 Plant on Tuesday that they would be replaced “with clean and renewable energies.”
Both of the AES facilities are located in a coastal region widely known in Chile for recent pollution episodes that have caused public health emergencies.
The coastal port city is home to the coal-burning power plants, but also to an oil refinery and a copper smelter, some of which operate very close to residential areas.
The plants, though shut down, will remain available to generate electricity in the event of an emergency, said AES Chief Executive Ricardo Falú.
Chile’s government expects to have shut down 11 coal-fired plants by 2024, three more than initially anticipated by that date. (Reporting by Fabian Cambero, writing by Dave Sherwood)