Hydro, regional incursions top Colbún action plan

Monday, February 2, 2015

Chile-based power generator Colbún plans to grow its hydroelectric portfolio while maintaining a healthy balance of available thermo capacity in the medium to long term.

The firm, in the fourth quarter of last year, awarded contracts for civil works and electromechanical infrastructure for the 34MW La Mina run-of-the-river hydro plant in San Clemente, Maule region (VII), officially marking the start of a planned 26-month construction period.

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Other projects in the pipeline include a second, 350MW unit at the 342MW Santa María coal-fired complex, a project for which Colbún has secured environmental permission. Colbún said in a Q4 update that it was analyzing the project's environmental, social and financial elements in order to determine the optimum time to begin construction.

Colbún's other main project in development is the 150MW San Pedro hydro plant on the namesake river in southern Ríos region (XIV). Having completed analysis of technical studies carried out over the last four years, Colbún plans to present new information to environmental authority SEA this quarter in a bid to secure the necessary permits for the project.

Colbún registered a US$102mn impairment charge in its Q4 results related to the rejected 2.75GW HidroAysén mega-dam project, a JV between Endesa Chile (51% interest) and Colbún (49% interest).

Despite the revocation of the project's environmental approval (RCA), the statement said that the special purpose company created to develop the plant would continue to fight for HidroAysén in court and that Colbún would continue seeking to develop southern Chile's hydro resources.

Colbún's installed capacity stands at 3.28GW, comprising 51.5% thermo and 48.5% hydro plants and accounting for 21% of installed capacity on Chile's central SIC grid.

The firm reiterated its previously stated intention to expand into Peru and Colombia, citing the countries' established and stable regulatory frameworks.

Colbún reported its highest-ever Ebitda (US$537mn) in 2014. The firm cited improved hydrological conditions and the startup of the 316MW Angostura hydro plant, as well as low exposure to volatile spot energy market prices.

Citing natural gas supply agreements reached in 2014 with national oil company Enap and gas distributor Metrogas, Colbún said it would have the backup gas-powered capacity necessary in 2015 in the event of sub-par hydrological conditions.

Colbún posted a net loss of US$61.8mn for Q4 – with the HidroAysén impairment charge accounting for a portion of that – compared with a net profit of US$6.9mn for 4Q13.

Pictured above: Colbún's 342MW Angostura I coal-fired plant (CREDIT: Colbún)