NotiEn - A Newsletter on Energy Policy Issues in Latin America
July 29, 2011Vol 2, Issue 10

Brazil, Chile Consider Controversial Hydrolectric Projects; Ecuador Renews Oil Exploration in Protected Area

A NOTE FROM THE EDITOR

This issue of NotiEn revisits the controversy regarding hydroelectric power in South America, primarily in Brazil and Chile. The two countries are hoping to move forward with plans to expand their hydroelectric infrastructure with big projects. They argue that expanding energy supplies is essential for economic growth, and hydroelectric energy is a clean and renewable alternative to other carbon-producing options.

 

But there is strong opposition in both Chile and Brazil from environmentalists and local communities, including indigenous groups, who argue that the projects will damage the local environment and result in major displacements.

 

In Chile, the conflict is centered on the planned HidroAysén venture, a multibillion-dollar dam scheme slated for the southern Patagonia region. The developers, Spanish-Italian electricity giant Endesa and Colbún, a Chilean utility, have been pushing for the past five years to build a network of hydroelectric plants along the Río Baker and Río Pascua, a pair of powerful rivers that flow through the Aysén Region in far southern Chile. HidroAysén, as the joint venture is called, promises the five dams will have an installed generating capacity of 2,750 megawatts, equivalent to roughly 17% of the country's current grid capacity.

 

A coalition known as the Consejo de Defensa de la Patagonia (CDP) has launched an international campaign to stop the project. Critics argue that the project would cause irreparable harm to the Baker and Pascua river valleys and open up the largely undeveloped wilderness area to further industrial exploitation.  A recent poll indicated that a majority of the Chilean public opposes the project.

 

There are many conflicts surrounding hydroelectric projects in Brazil, but the main dispute centers on the Monte Belo dam on the Xingu in the Xingu river basin. This would be the third-largest such facility in the world, after the Three Gorges Dam in China and the Itaipú dam, shared by Brazil and Paraguay. The administration of President Dilma Rousseff is proceeding with the project, which was first conceived 30 years ago, despite strong opposition from the environmental group Amazon Watch and Amnesty International (AI), which argue that constructing Belo Monte will drive more than 40,000 people from their homes, including the Juruna and Arara tribes whose way of life is based upon the Xingu River. Read more... 

 

Carlos Navarro - Editor   

In This Issue...
A Note From the Editor
Despite Government Approval, Chile's HidroAysén Dam Project Still not done Deal
Brazilian Environmental Agency Gives Belo Monte Dam Green Light as Government Continues to Invest in Hydroelectric Power
Ecuadoran Government Set to Resume Armadillo Oil Project Despite Opposition from Indigenous Communities, Environmentalists
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Despite Government Approval, Chile's HidroAysén Dam Project Still not done Deal - By Benjamin Witte-Lebhar     

Rio BakerFlip-flop rulings have left the fate of the controversial HidroAysén venture, a multibillion-dollar dam scheme slated for southern Chile's Patagonia region, very much up in the air. The recent roller-coaster events have made one thing clear: in Chile, energy matters--once the exclusive domain of private utilities companies--are now becoming everyone's business.

 

The project's developers, Spanish-Italian electricity giant Endesa and Colbún, a Chilean utility, have been pushing for the past five years to build a network of hydroelectric plants along the Río Baker and Río Pascua, a pair of powerful rivers that flow through Chile's far southern Aysén Region. HidroAysén, as the joint venture is called, promises the five dams will have an installed generating capacity of 2,750 megawatts, equivalent to roughly 17% of the country's current grid capacity.

 

HidroAysén and its backers claim Chile desperately needs that electricity to continue its march toward "first-world" status. The country's current installed electricity capacity is roughly 15,700 MW. Analysts say that, by the end of the decade, Chile will have to double its grid capacity to keep up with steady economic growth. Read more... 

 
Brazilian Environmental Agency Gives Belo Monte Dam Green Light as Government Continues to Invest in Hydroelectric Power - By Ana Cristina Powell   

© Amazon Watch           

On June 1, 2011, the Brazilian environmental agency, the Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis (IBAMA), gave the government the green light to proceed with construction of the controversial Belo Monte dam. After 30 years of planning and struggle against opposition to the project, the Belo Monte hydroelectric power plant will be built in the Xingu river basin. This would be the third-largest such facility in the world, after the Three Gorges Dam in China and the Itaipú dam, shared by Brazil and Paraguay.

 

IBAMA conceded the license despite national and international criticism and a recommendation from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) that dam construction be suspended until the rights of local indigenous communities are guaranteed. The environmental group Amazon Watch and Amnesty International (AI) argue that constructing Belo Monte will drive more than 40,000 people from their homes, including the Juruna and Arara tribes whose way of life is based upon the Xingu River. 

 

"Continuing with the construction before ensuring the rights of the indigenous communities are protected is equivalent to sacrificing human rights for development," said Guadalupe Marengo, AI's Americas deputy director.  Read more...   


Ecuadoran Government Set to Resume Armadillo Oil Project Despite Opposition from Indigenous Communities, Environmentalists - By Luis Angel Saavedra     

The Ecuadoran government reopened a call for tenders for the Armadillo oil field, in the Amazonian province of Orellana, where evidence has been found of settlements and movement of the Tagaeri and Taromenane peoples, who remain in voluntary isolation.

 

The new call for tenders has produced a controversy, not only among environmentalists, the indigenous movement, and the government but also within the government team, since the Tagaeri and Taromenane peoples are beneficiaries of protective measures called for by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

 

President Rafael Correa announced a government policy to protect these peoples, creating the Plan de Remediación Ambiental y Social in 2008 and the Plan de Medidas Cautelares. The plans aim to implement the best alternatives to achieve what the government and the IACHR agreed to. Officials from the Ministerio de Medio Ambiente, in charge of carrying out the policy, have been astonished by the decision to accept bids for Campo Armadillo, since this completely contradicts the policy set in 2008.

As on other occasions, the president has been very sarcastic in the face of criticisms of the call for tenders for the oil concession and has responded by asking for reports on the activities of a number of international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that operate in Ecuador and fund activities of environmental and indigenous organizations. Read more...  

LA-ENERGAIA
Energy Policy, Regulation and Dialogue in Latin America

 

NotiEn is an original newsletter with breaking news that analyzes and digests relevant and contemporary information in energy, alternative energy and energy policies in Latin America. A complimentary service provided by the University of New Mexico as part of LA-ENERGAIA Project funded by the US TICFIA Program