* Supreme court rejects appeals against mega project
* HidroAysen seeks to provide 2,750 megawatts
* Patagonia project criticized on environmental grounds
* Chile grappling with feeble energy grid
(Adds top court quote, background)
By Erik Lopez
SANTIAGO, April 4 Chile's Supreme Court said on
Wednesday it rejected seven appeals filed against the $3.5
billion HidroAysen hydro-power project, clearing the way for the
mega-dam project to go forward.
HidroAysen, a joint venture between leading generator Endesa
Chile and partner Colbun, has sparked massive
protests over potential environmental consequences in Chile's
pristine Patagonia region.
A local court had previously dismissed appeals against the
project, which comprises five power stations and plans to
generate 2,750 megawatts of electricity by damming two major
"In today's resolution.... the Supreme court confirmed the
rejection (of the appeals)," said Jaime Rodriguez, spokesman for
Chile's top court.
Chile, the world's top copper producer, is suffering from
years of underinvestment in its shaky energy grid and
desperately needs to reform electric transmission lines and
energy generation to keep up with growing demand.
The government estimates that to keep up with that rising
energy demand, some 8,000 megawatts of capacity will need to be
added by 2020 to the current 17,000 megawatts in the nation's
Environmentalists say the hydroelectric dams will flood
unspoiled valleys and wreck rivers in Patagonia, while industry
players argue the project is crucial to the power-starved
HidroAysen still needs governmental approval for a
1,250-mile (2,000-km) planned transmission line to channel power
to capital Santiago. The entire complex is expected to be
operational by 2025.
"It's not right to say a green light has been granted to the
project," said Patricio Rodrigo, executive secretary of a
defense group for the Patagonia region. "The company survived
these appeals... but criminal suits for tinkering with reports
Shares in Endesa and Colbun were both trading 0.11 percent
lower on Wednesday afternoon after the announcement, somewhat
outperforming Santiago's blue-chip IPSA stock index,
which was down 0.66 percent.
(Writing by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer)