Guacolda power station

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Guacolda power station, also known as Huasco power station or Termoeléctrico Guacolda, is a 760-megawatt (MW) coal-fired power complex, consisting of five 152-megawatt (MW) coal-fired plants, in Huasco, Atacama, Chile.


The photo shows the plant's location in Huasco, in the Atacama region of Chile.

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Launched in 1992, the Guacolda subcritical coal project supplies power to the northern sector of Chile's SIC (Sistema Interconectado Central) electrical grid. The first unit at Guacolda began producing power in July 1995. Additional units came online in August 1996, July 2009 and March 2010.[1]

The fifth 152 MW unit received its environmental permit in August 2010[2] and was constructed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, with operations scheduled to begin in the second half of 2015.[3] In September 2013, responding to tougher new government pollution restrictions, the plant announced a deal with the Austrian company Andritz to acquire a selective catalytic reduction plant, four desalinization plants and technology for cleaning exhaust fumes, all expected to be in place by early 2016.[4]

The new unit began operating in the fourth quarter of 2015.[5]

Financing for Unit 5

In April 2013, a financing agreement for unit 5 was closed. US$318 million in loans was provided by Itau-Unibanco and BancoEstado.[6]

Environmental Impact

In September 2017, César Araya, a government official for the Atacama region, announced the implementation of a new environmental management plan for the Guacolda plant, designed to improve air quality by imposing a 22% reduction in particulate emissions over a five- to 10-year period. Chilean environmental groups including S.O.S Huasco, Chile Sustentable and the Asamblea Freirina criticized the plan, asserting that it provided insufficient public health protections and gave local industry excessive leeway to regulate itself and delay meaningful emissions reductions.[7]

In November 2020, the Guacolda plant transferred control of its network of 11 air quality monitoring stations to Chile's Ministry of the Environment. The move was intended to increase public confidence in data reported from these stations.[8]


Since March 2014 the plant has been jointly owned by Chilean generator AES Gener (part of US-based AES Corp.) and the international investment fund Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP).[9][10]

In 2020, WEG Group purchased GIP's 50% stake in the Guacolda power station.[11] In February 2021, AES announced it would also be selling its shares of the coal plant to WEG Group.[12]

However, WEG Group sold its ownership in the Guacolda power station's sponsor, El Aguila Energy SpA, to the firm Capital Advisors.[13] AES then finalized a deal to sell its 50% stake in the power station to Capital Advisors in July 2021 as well, for a total price of US$34 million. These transactions leave Capital Advisors with 100% ownership of El Aguila Energy SpA and the Guacolda power station.[14][15]


In January 2010, the Health Service and the Agricultural and Livestock Service in Chile “requested that Huasco be declared a Latent Zone for Contamination” against the plans to build the Guacolda power station. They wanted to protect the health and environment of the people of Huasco. However, the Supreme Court permitted the construction of the Guacolda power station. Protestors and residents of Huasco disagree “because [their decision] was determined due to the needs of the mining industry. As a result, on January 18, 2014, residents of Huasco protested on the streets against the construction of the Guacolda power station. The plant was planned to be “the largest in the country” of Chile. Environmental groups said the construction of the power plant would result in the residents of Huasco “being sentenced to the death.”[16][17]

In 2017, environmental groups, such as the Freirina Assembly and the SOS Huasco Group, challenged the continued construction of the Huasco power plants. Though there was a “Atmospheric Prevention Plan” that outlined proposals for reducing the environmental damage of the Huasco power plants, leaders from the Freirina Assembly and SOS Huasco identified how “the plan does not [have] immediate measures” for a “serious situation [where] serious health problems exist.” The plan is also based on 2013 measurements of the plants and environment, which the environmental groups believe are outdated.[18]

On October 30, 2018, a special report in Chile called “Quintero Plan that did not work” was broadcasted to denounce the “environmental scam” of the proposed plans to mitigate harmful effects from the Huasco power plants. The report cites how “the population [of Huasco] has been exposed for more than 40 years to heavy metals and chemo toxic gases,” yet the only things they have received from the government are “lies, cancer, and death.”[19]

At the end of March 2019, the NGO Fima “presented a protection appeal against the Guacolda plant.” The appeal was specifically against units 1 and 2, which came into operation in 1995. Since the plants were built in 1995, the NGO Fima believes that these Guacolda plants are not following standards of the Environmetnal Qualification Resolution in Chile (RCA). They also cite how Huasco has been declared “a latency zone due to high levels of atmospheric pollution” emitted from the nearby coal plants.[20]

On January 19, 2020, a study conducted by the Department of Public Health of the Catholic University concluded that “53% of women [in Huasco] had high concentrations of mercury in their body at dangerous levels.” With higher risks for cerebrovascular diseases, language learning disabilities, and pollution of the seawater, environmental groups are accusing the company in charge of the Huasco power plants, AES Gener. AES Gener has denied responsibility for the health of Huasco residents.[21]

On March 12, 2020, the Huasco community demanded the closure of Guacolda 1 and 2 plants by 2022 and 2023. The demands are a result of the Huasco community being “exposed to high levels of pollution for another 20 years and suffering serious health impacts.” The leader of the Huasco community against the Guacolda plants, Doris Zamorano, stresses that “we need to stop getting sick!” The final decision on the closures is dependent on the Ministry of Energy.[22]

Planned Phase-out

According to the Chilean Ministry of Energy's national decarbonization plan announced by President Sebastián Piñera in June 2019, all five units of the Guacolda (Huasco) power station will cease operations no later than 2040. Plant owner AES Gener agrees to consult with the government every five years to update details of the plan, taking into account system stability requirements, energy costs, and environmental goals.[23]

Specific decommissioning dates are yet to be determined, but AES Gener's 2019 annual report lists expiration dates of 2020 to 2032 for current contracts at its Guacolda units.[24] Chile's Ministry of Energy did not include the Guacolda power station in its list of plants to be disconnected in 2019-2024.[25]

Project Details

  • Sponsor: El Aguila Energy SpA
  • Parent company: Capital Advisors[13]
  • Location: Huasco, Atacama, Chile
  • Coordinates: -28.465013, -71.256541 (exact)
  • Status: Operating
  • Capacity: 760 MW[5]
  • Type: Subcritical
  • In service:
    • Unit 1: 1995[5]
    • Unit 2: 1996[5]
    • Unit 3: 2009[5]
    • Unit 4: 2010[5]
    • Unit 5: 2015[5]
  • Coal Type: Subbituminous, Bituminous
  • Coal Source:
  • Source of financing: Unit 5: US$318 million in debt from Itau-Unibanco and BancoEstado[6]

Articles and resources


  1. "Central termoeléctrica Guacolda,", Wikipedia, accessed March 26, 2014.
  2. "Resolución de Calificación Ambiental: Unidad 5 Central Térmica Guacolda S.A." (PDF). República de Chile: Comisión Regional del Medio Ambiente. August 18, 2010.
  3. "MHI Receives Full-turnkey Order to Build Coal-fired Power Plant in Chile - Fifth Plant Ordered by Empresa Eléctrica Guacolda," Mitsubishi Heavy Industries press release, Nov. 27, 2012.
  4. "Empresa austriaca moderniza planta energética Guacolda de Huasco". La Nación. September 5, 2013.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 "GUACOLDA 2015 RESULTS (p 15)" (PDF). AES Gener. December 31, 2015.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Preview of Coal Fired Guacolda Unit 5 Financing (158MW) | Transaction | IJGlobal". Retrieved 2020-10-07.
  7. "Comunidades rechazan nuevo plan ambiental para Huasco," UChile, September 19, 2017
  8. "Termoeléctrica Guacolda traspasa al Estado red de monitoreo de calidad del aire". Induambiente. November 27, 2020.
  9. "Chile AES Gener brings in fund as partner on Guacolda power plant". Reuters. March 28, 2014.
  10. "Fitch: AES Gener Gains Control of Guacolda; Neutral to Ratings," Business Wire, March 31, 2014.
  11. AES Gener is diverting its largest coal asset in the country, NewsBeezer, Feb. 24, 2021
  12. Morais, Lucas (February 24, 2021). "AES Gener exiting coal-fired plant in Chile". Renewables Now.
  13. 13.0 13.1 "Guacolda: Lo que hay detrás del mayor complejo carbonero de Chile". ChileSustentable. July 19, 2021.
  14. Carmen Arroyo Nieto, AES closes sale of Chilean coal-fired plant, IJGlobal, July 22, 2021
  15. AES Andes completes the sale process of its stake in Guacolda after approval by the FNE, NewsWep, July 20, 2021
  16. "Huasco residents are outraged by the construction of a thermoelectric plant," OLCA, translated by Google, 18 Jan. 2014
  17. "Fifth expansion of Termoelectrica Guacolda approved," OLCA Communications, translated by Google, 4 Aug. 2010
  18. "Communities reject new environmental plan for Huasco province," Futuro Renovable, translated by Google, 22 Sep. 2017
  19. "Organizations once again denounce 'environmental scam' of the so-called Prevention Plan of the Huasco commune," OLCA, translated by Google, 7 Nov. 2018
  20. "Huasco community goes to court for Guacolda thermoelectric plant," Fundación Terram, translated by Google, 29 Mar. 2019
  21. "Huasco, children of pollution: Children have learning problems and detect mercury in women," OLCA, translated by Google, 20 Jan. 2020
  22. "The Huasco community requires AES Gener and the Ministry of Energy to close the Guacolda 1 and 2 thermoelectric plants in 2022 and 2023," OLCA, translated by Google, 19 May. 2020
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 23.4 23.5 "Plan de Descarbonización y Retiro de Centrales Termoeléctricas a Carbón en Chile, Anuncio del gobierno de Sebastián Piñera" (PDF). Chile Sustentable. June 4, 2019.
  24. "2019 Annual Report (page 23)" (PDF). AES Gener. March 1, 2019.
  25. "3Q-2020 Earnings Report" (PDF). Guacolda Energía SA. December 2020.

Related articles

External resources