The global push to phase out unabated coal power chalked up a major victory this week, as Chile announced it would ban the development of new coal power plants without carbon capture and storage (CCS) and begin work on a plan to phase out its existing coal capacity.
The country’s Energy Ministry and the power sector trade body Asociación de Generadoras released statements yesterday confirming an agreement had been reached to phase out unabated coal power in the country.
The companies, which include global players such as AES, Enel, and Engie, have committed to ending the development of new coal plants. At the same time they will form a working group alongside the government to explore how to phase out existing coal plants and meet the government’s target of sourcing 70 per cent of Chile’s power from renewables by 2050.
Power auctions in Chile have delivered some of the lowest cost renewables projects in the world and the statement from the trade body stressed that the new plan was driven by the changing economics in the energy industry.
“Thanks to significant reduction in costs and the massification of renewable generation technologies that have been incorporated into our [energy] matrix, the electricity generation industry sees an increasingly renewable future, where thermoelectric generation will no longer be the main source of energy and, together with hydroelectricity, other renewable technologies and storage, will complement variable solar photovoltaic and wind generation during the absence of sunlight or wind,” the statement read.
Writing on Twitter, Chile’s environment minister Marcelo Mena said the new plan was “the beginning of the end of coal”.
The move represents a major victory for the Powering Past Coal Alliance, which was launched last year by the UK and Canada, and has seen 24 countries, eight regions, and 24 corporates commit to phasing out coal.
The campaign has faced criticism in some quarters for primarily attracting support from countries such as the UK and France, which either have minimal reliance on coal power or are already well advanced in their plans to phase out its use.
However, Chile remains reliant on coal for between 35 per cent and 40 per cent of its power, meaning the new goal is likely to make a sizeable dent in the country’s carbon emissions.