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Major Chile transmission project moves a step forward

Bnamericas Published: Wednesday, November 30, 2022

A US$1.5bn transmission project vital to Chile’s decarbonization drive has reached an initial development milestone.

Conexión Energía officially launched the project – the HVDC Kimal-Lo Aguirre power line – at the offices of grid coordinator CEN on Wednesday.

Stretching 1,400km from renewables-rich northern region Antofagasta to demand hub Santiago in the country’s central zone, the power line is due to enter the environmental evaluation system next year and become operational in 2029. Officials have begun early-stage community engagement work and, this week, environmental evaluation service chief Valentina Durán said a dedicated team would be formed to process the project’s environmental impact study. 

With minimal nominal capacity of 3GW, the ±600kV line is designed to ease transmission congestion between wind and solar strongholds and major cities, supporting the ongoing decarbonization of Chile’s power grid by facilitating the addition of new renewables capacity. Chile is retiring coal-fired plants and aiming to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Conexión Energía was formed to develop, build and operate the line. Stakeholders are Canadian-Chinese transmission firm Transelec, Colombian holding ISA and Chinese electricity infrastructure developer China Southern Power Grid, each with 33%.

“This is, and is going to be, a key component to reinforce interconnection with the northern zone, and with it the capacity to transport clean energy,” said Javier Tapia, executive director of local transmission sector chamber Asociación de Transmisoras de Chile.

Power generators underscore the importance of continued grid investment to the energy transition.

“This project is key to the sustainable development of Chile, an enabling condition for the development of renewable energy and the responsible removal of coal, in line with the energy transition and electrification that will contribute to carbon neutrality, key in the climate emergency fight,” said Claudio Seebach, executive president of power generator chamber Generadoras de Chile.

In November, in the context of a public-private working group, solar industry chamber Acesol urged authorities to strengthen and accelerate the transmission planning and expansion process. A major topic under discussion in the local power sector is electricity curtailment and price decoupling, linked to transmission congestion. 

ISA REORGANIZATION

In related sector news, ISA said it was reorganizing some of its business units in Chile. 

In Chile, ISA – via unit ISA Interchile – operates 945km of power lines, giving it a 13% transmission market share. Key assets include the Cardones-Polpaico link.

ISA will transfer its shares in Interchile to fully owned local unit ISA Inversiones Chile. A second process involves splitting ISA Inversiones Chile into two companies: one focused on highways, the other transmission.

The corporate moves, an ISA statement said, are designed to “implement a new scheme of administration and governance and facilitate the development of new businesses and alliances in Chile for the highways and power transmission businesses.”

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