Chilean hydropower project unfeasible as is: Enel CEO

SANTIAGO Tue Jul 15, 2014 5:22pm EDT

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SANTIAGO (Reuters) - If Chile's proposed HidroAysen hydropower project is to move forward, it will have to be reformulated so that environmentalists and regulators do not object, one of the codevelopers of the massive project said on Tuesday.

The $8 billion-plus project, a joint venture between Endesa Chile and Colbun, had its permit cancelled in June by a ministerial committee after strong opposition from environmentalists who feared it would wreck pristine valleys in Chile's wild south. Endesa is indirectly owned by Italy's Enel SpA.

In the wake of the cancellation, the companies can still tweak the project or leave it as is and press their case in the courts. Enel's chief executive, however, suggested on Tuesday that the latter option is not under consideration.

"One thing is clear - this project as it is can't go ahead, against the people, against the country," CEO Francesco Starace told reporters during an event in Santiago.

"I think there are many things we could do. One is (to) quit it entirely. Another is to reformulate, another is to restructure. There are a lot of possible solutions."

Starace took the helm at Enel in May, and has promised to continue a program of asset disposals at the debt-laden European utility.

Top copper exporter Chile badly needs more electrical power and the five-dam HidroAysen project, if completed, would add some 2,750 megawatts to the grid.

(Reporting by Felipe Iturrieta; Writing by Rosalba O'Brien; editing by Matthew Lewis)

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