Chilean utility group AES Andes has once again formally requested to close down the Ventanas II coal-fired unit in Chile as the government prepares to draft a new decarbonisation plan and accelerate the coal exit by a decade.
The company said on Thursday it had asked the national energy commission (CNE) to be exempt from a 24-month notification period to report the retirement and disconnection of the 208-MW generation unit, effective from December 31, 2023. This request nullifies the previously submitted application for the unit to be placed in the so-called strategic reserve regime, a status that would have allowed the facility to still operate but as an emergency backup.
In late 2020, AES Andes, then known as AES Gener, requested the early retirement of the units I and II of the Ventanas coal-fired power plant. The unit I was promptly disconnected, while the unit II continued to operate to this day.
At the time, the company was criticised by environmentalist groups for requesting that the two units remain in the strategic reserve regime, which can last up to 60 months, instead of pursuing a complete shut-down.
The current proposal by AES Andes to definitively close Ventanas II aligns with the company’s commitment to phase out its coal units as the Chilean electricity system allows, CEO Javier Dib said.
Dib added: “We’re not only phasing out our coal operations but by the year 2027, we will have added over 3.8 GW of renewable capacity to our portfolio in the country”.
The company’s renewed attempt to shutter the Ventanas II unit coincides with preparations for new discussions between the Chilean government and relevant stakeholders with the goal to devise a pathway to achieve full decarbonisation in 2030.
When the previous decarbonisation agreement was reached in 2019, Chile had 28 coal-fired units in operation and an objective to close them all one by one by 2040. Between 2019 and 2022, eight units ceased operations, 12 are marked for closure, while the final eight units lack a committed timeline for closure.