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DONT KEEP PATAGONIA SO WILD

If Chile wants to become a developed country by the


end of the 2020's it needs to generate electricity. If
you want progress you need economic growth.

There is a clear correlation between power
generation and development. Efficiency aspects in
Chile have not yet managed to drop the curve
between electricity generation and GDP. So, for the
time being, it's imperative to increase the power
generating capacity.

If Chile is to maintain a 6% annual economic growth,
electricity generation must double between now and
2020. The green energies (wind, solar, geothermal,
etc.) represent only 3% of the national grid.
Hidroaysn is a hydroelectric project with no
emission of toxic fumes, and therefore considered a
clean energy.

Uninformed people think that the dam will flood a
great part of the Patagonia. This is not so. Less than
0.1% will be flooded and Patagonia will maintain it's
pristine environment in over 99.9% of its territory.

The use of water from the Pascua and Baker rivers is
not water that is consumed. These rivers flow
through the dam to move the turbines attached to
electricity generators. Once this is done, the water
returns to the normal course and ends up in the sea
unpolluted.
This is a response to a NYT Op-Ed written Op-ED The New York Times
by an environmentalist who opposed the idea written by Ernesto Garcia A.
of buiding the Hydroelectic project Hidroaysn
with the title "Keep Patagonia Wild".

Economic growth causes development which
reduces the unemployment level, which is very
necessary in an economy which is developing and
helps to bridge the inequality gap.

Wind and solar energies are too expensive and also
hurt the environment. Consider only that a wind
turbine needs the investment and building of the
turbine itself. Plus the batteries for storage, plus the
cement for the foundations, plus the finely tuned
rotor blades and plus a conventional generator as a
backup to generate power when there is no wind.

And, of course, the transmission lines. And how
much do you believe a single wind turbine can
generate. Besides, there is an environmental impact
in the form of wind farms which clearly damage the
landscape, in addition to making noise and killing the
birds.

If the private corporations building the Aysen dam
had projected a higher profit by building green
energies, they would have done so. The problem
today with green energies is that they are more
expensive than thermal or hydroelectric sources, and
would therefore need strong government subsidies.

Let's remember that China began with an enormous
amount of thermal power plants driven by coal. This
is what gave their basis for growth at the beginning.

They are now switching to hydroelectric and nuclear.
The Three Gorges Dam is the largest hydroelectric in
the world. And China, as opposed to Chile, will not
just double their energy capacity by 2020. They will
multiply it by ten. That is how countries seeking high
levels of development act.


The Chinese, as well as the Indians, are embarked in
a great nuclear development plan. Both have
developed the Thorium Fuel Cycle for their new
plants, which is a much safer way than using
uranium as fuel. Besides, uranium reserves are
limited whereas thorium is much more abundant.

To accelerate development, Chile would be wise to
invest in thorium fuel cycle plants. However, both the
hydroelectric project and thorium nuclear plants take
a long time to build. Besides, nuclear plants are way
more expensive so there is no question that the
government would have to step in with tons of cash
or as a 100% guarantor of the loans, since the
payback period in nuclear plants is quite long.

There are advanced studies on green energies in
Chile and the Government has pledged to increase
the percentage of green energy sources on the
interconnected energy grid to 20% by 2020. I don't
believe that is a reasonable assumption but rather a
political commitment to keep ecologists at bay.

Chile needs a big economic development that would
drag it out from the poverty levels and into a more
positive scenario. But just as increased energy
supplies are necessary, big steps must be
implemented to reduce the high inequalities in the
distribution of income.

While these big investments are not up and running,
the slack could be filled in with gas fired turbines,
which are quite efficient and nature friendly. As the
major generators come on stream, it will eliminate
the need for the most polluting thermal coal plants.

As green energy technologies advance and become
profitable, They might, in turn, replace all the coal
fired plants and reduce the need for nuclear
generation.


Ernesto Garcia Alexandersson
egalexandersson@gmail.com