Opinion Greenpeace activists are celebrating today, after their protests led to the halting of plans to build a massive renewable powerplant which would have supplied clean, green, low-carbon electricity in huge quantities.
"Today, we celebrate," Greenpeace chief Matías Asún told reporters, following a decision to withdraw government permission for the Hidroaysén project. The project would have generated as much as 18,430 gigawatt-hours annually - roughly six times as much as the huge offshore London Array windfarm planned for the Thames Estuary.
Hidroaysén was not planned for the Thames, but rather in the remote and sparsely populated wilderness of Patagonia in southern Chile. The project, which would have seen hydroelectric dams constructed on the region's rivers and a lengthy high-voltage DC line constructed to carry the power to centres of population and industry, would have met as much as 21 per cent of Chile's electricity requirements with effectively zero carbon emissions.
Hidroaysén would have been better than an equivalent set of huge windfarms, too, as the power would have been supplied in a steady and predictable manner. Hydroelectric power isn't totally reliable, as New Zealanders found out a few years ago, but it is far and away the form of renewable power easiest to use on an electricity grid.
Chile has no fossil fuels or nuclear power and very little renewable energy. As a result of the Hidroaysén cancellation, more imported fossil fuels will be burned and electricity prices - already the highest in Latin America - will climb still further. This will hit the country's poorest people especially hard as energy bills are a relatively large part of their outgoings.
“The big winners here are the environmentalists but the big losers are the consumers,” Chilean Senator Iván Moreira told press including the Santiago Times following the government’s decision on Tuesday. “Currently there are few energy projects in the country so electricity costs will rise and these will affect ordinary people most.” ®