Opposing Destructive Hydroelectric Dams and Promoting Sustainable Energy in Chile
At the southernmost tip of South America, one of the last untouched expanses of land on the planet is now under threat of irreversible destruction.
Chile's Patagonia is home to the snow-capped Andes, dense temperate rainforests, lush valleys and meadows, abundant marine and bird species, and traditional communities living a low-impact lifestyle. All of these could be devastated if a proposed hydro-electric complex called HidroAysén is constructed on two of the last free-flowing rivers in the world. The massive dams would:
- Flood 14,000 acres of irreplaceable wildlife habitat and ranching lands;
- Require constructing a new 1,200 mile-long transmission line that would potentially expose and disrupt untouched wilderness in 17 national parks and reserves, 26 wetlands and biodiversity conservation sites, and impact hundreds of private properties; and
- Swell the populations of local towns without providing adequate infrastructure and services to handle this growth.
While big energy companies are lobbying for this ill-conceived project, Chile's vast renewable energy resources remain untapped and its energy efficiency opportunities unrealized. NRDC is working with a coalition to stop the HidroAysén complex and help Chile instead reach its renewable energy and energy efficiency potential.
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What it Means to You
Chile has vast renewable energy resources and energy efficiency opportunities, and the potential to become a world leader in clean energy technologies. The Chilean government has signed numerous renewable energy development initiatives with the U.S. and other countries. A key part of these agreements includes information-sharing, which means that a decision to pursue renewable energy in Chile would help advance alternative energy programs in the U.S. and around the world as we learn from groundbreaking new programs.
Chile has unparalleled potential for renewable energy and energy efficiency. The country has an abundance of untapped solar, wind and geothermal energy sources, which could easily meet the country's future energy needs. All of these alternative solutions are more sustainable, less destructive, and more stable than the large hydro-electric and coal power sources that currently dominate Chile's energy industry.
NRDC is working with a broad coalition of citizens, community groups, and national and international NGOs to oppose the hydro dam project and push for sustainable energy solutions. Our strategy includes:
- Challenging HidroAysén's deeply flawed Environmental Impact Assessment. HidroAysén's environmental impact assessment fails to meet international best practices. NRDC's analysis of the document reveals major deficiencies, incorrect data and glaring gaps in information -- including completely ignoring the impact of the project's transmission line. HidroAysén's three-year review process was fraught with legal irregularities and claims of corruption among the reviewing state agencies. When the project received environmental approval in May 2011, it sparked some of the largest citizen protests Chile had seen in over a generation. Numerous legal appeals to the process and the decision have reached all the way to the Supreme Court.
- Demonstrating that HidroAysén is a risky investment. HidroAysén is a massive project with a $10 billion price tag -- which means its owners will almost certainly need to seek outside financing. By shining a spotlight on public opposition, legal challenges, uncertainty related to the transmission line and the climate change-related risks to the dams, NRDC is exposing the hydro-electric complex as a poor business investment for potential funders.
- Proving that Chile has better, smarter energy options. Chile's abundant renewable energy resources are already cost-competitive with hydro and coal power, and are more than sufficient to meet the country's future energy needs when coupled with routine energy efficiency measures. NRDC's continuing research and analysis on the benefits of sustainable alternatives help demonstrate that large destructive energy projects like HidroAysén and dirty coal plants are simply not the best way forward for Chile.
What You Can Do
You can help protect Patagonia and support sustainable energy solutions by joining our efforts today.
- Take action
Tell Chile's President to stop the HidroAysén dam and preserve Patagonia now!
- Learn more
Stay up to date on renewable energy and energy efficiency in Chile and our efforts to protect Patagonia by reading our staff's related blog posts.
- Support NRDC's work
Our ongoing work in Chile is funded by people like you who care about Patagonia and sustainable energy. With your support, we can continue fighting the HidroAysén project and promote a better energy future for Chile. Click here to help fund our efforts in Patagonia and beyond >>
last revised 5/1/2012
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