Friday, 5 November 2010

Hot technology for Chile rivers

Thursday 28/10/2010 Page: 6

AUSTRALIAN company Pacific Hydro has started generating power from its $US800 million ($A810 million) "run-of-river" projects in Chile, with the country's President, Sebastian Pinera, pledging to support more investment in the renewable technology. Mr Pinera officially opened Pacific Hydro's La Higuera and La Confluencia projects, 200 kilometres south of Santiago, which will provide almost 1 million Chilean homes with renewable energy, the equivalent to taking more than 250,000 cars off the road.

The President evoked the spirit of the recent rescue effort to save Chile's 33 trapped miners, calling on the world to "do it Chilean style" and encourage the deployment of renewable energy. "Our work in this area is not just for the 17 million Chileans but for our children and our grandchildren whose smiles we have not seen yet", he told more than 450 assembled guests.

"The heroic approach of our miners has shown what it means to do things the Chilean way. Doing things Chilean style used to mean doing things so-so but now we have to leave that behind. "We need to be on the cutting edge of technology... and this is an outstanding example of what can be done", Mr Pinera said. The 155-MW La Higuera and the 158-MW La Confluencia hydro projects are a joint venture between Pacific Hydro and Norway's SN Power.

The two projects, in Chile's Tinguiririca Valley, use "run-of-river" technology, which generates electricity through the volume and drop of water without darns. Pacific Hydro, which is owned by 5 million Australian superannuation investors through Industry Funds Management's 100% stake, will also generate income by selling the associated carbon credits in the European emissions trading scheme.

Rob Grant, chief executive of Pacific Hydro and chairman of the Tinguiririca Energia joint venture, said the absence of a carbon price in Australia meant the company was spending more than three times more money in Latin America than in Australia. "The fact is that the current policy uncertainty in Australia around the market for wind farms and renewable energy makes it easier to be investing here in Chile than Australia at this point in time", he told BusinessDay. IFM chief executive Brett Himbury said the funds manager, which traditionally had been attracted to more static investments, was "keen to get more exposure to assets and companies like Pacific Hydro".