Chile: 13 companies bid for 20 new geothermal concessions

El Tatio Geysers, Chile (source: flickr/Phillie Casablanca, creative commons)
Alexander Richter 24 Nov 2010

Thirteen companies made 70 bids for 20 available geothermal concessions in a tender process that closed this week in Chile, South America.

Reported from Chile, “Thirteen companies, including the Chilean unit of Italian power utility Enel SpA, power generator Colbun (COLBUN.SN) and mining company Minera Escondida, bid for twenty new geothermal concessions in Chile, the nation’s Energy Minister said on Wednesday.”

The tender process was opened by the government in September this year and closed on Tuesday this week. Thirteen companies made 70 bids for the 20 available concessions. The best bids, so the Ministry of Energy, will be awarded by the end of February 2011.

“We’re pleasantly surprised with the good showing this [tender] process received. It goes to show that the development of geothermal energy has a promising future,” Chile’s Minister for Energy Raineri said.

“Minera Escondida is controlled and operated by diversified global mining company BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP, BHP.AU), with a 57.5% stake, while Anglo-Australian mining company Rio Tinto PLC (RTP, RIO.LN) holds 30% and a Japanese consortium led by Mitsubishi Corp. (MSBHY, 8058.TO) owns 12.5%.

Nearly three-fourths of the new geothermal concessions are located in Chile’s arid north, where the vast majority of the nation’s booming copper mining industry is located.

Geothermal energy development is part of the government’s efforts to assure future power supply to the local mining industry, said Raineri, adding that within ten years some 1,000 megawatts of geothermal energy will likely be harnessed from the heat trapped underneath Chile’s surface.

The government has said it aims to have 20% of Chile’s power coming from non-conventional energy sources, which include geothermal, solar and wind energy, by 2020, as the Andean nation needs to incorporate more than 10,000 megawatts of new capacity over the next 10 years to keep up with demand.

As of December 2009, the central SIC grid, which provides power to over 90% of the country’s population, had an installed capacity of 11,352 megawatts.”