Chile’s Bachelet eyes land-use reform to fight power crunch

SANTIAGO,  (Reuters) – Chile’s presidential front runner Michelle Bachelet said yesterday she wants to reform crucial land-use planning rules to clarify where energy projects can be built, amid a power crunch in the world’s top copper producer.

A nebulous regulatory framework has allowed environmental and social groups to take energy projects that are already approved to court, putting in limbo billions of dollars of investment.

Center-left Bachelet, poised to be re-elected as president in next month’s general election or a likely December run-off, stressed she would seek to bolster Chile’s questioned environmental framework.

“We have to guarantee that environmental institutionality carries out what it’s meant to do,” Bachelet said during a radio debate with eight other candidates vying for the presidency.

“I’ve put forward a land-use plan, so that we define exactly where energy projects can be built, in collaboration with citizens,” said Bachelet, who was the nation’s first female president from 2006 to 2010.

Increasingly empowered citizens and environmental groups, upset about plans for massive coal-fired plants or mega-hydropower complexes in pristine Patagonia, have taken their demands to court.

 

INVESTMENTS AT RISK

The resulting delays in building of the plants have left major copper mines short of power and placed at risk up to $112 billion of mining investment over the next eight years.

An estimated 8,000 megawatts needs to be added to Chile’s 17,000 MW of power production capacity by the end of the decade, the government says.

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