The president of Chile Sebastián Piñera has announced the early closure of four coal-fired power plants by 2025,  expediting the country’s original goal to phase out coal reliance and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.  

An agreement between the Chilean government and the country’s largest power companies was originally reached in 2019 to voluntarily retire their oldest coal plants by 2040. After revisiting the schedule, the goal has now been pushed forward to 2025. 

The retirement of the four coal plants is a big step in Chile’s ambitious decarbonisation plan, and reducing approximately 6 million tonnes of carbon emission

The coal plants that are expected to close are located in Mejillones on the north coast, and Puchuncaví, in central Chile. 

In other new measures announced, Chile will look to retire 18 of the 28 coal plants currently in operation by 2040 the latest, which accounts for 65% of all coal-fired power plants in the country. The remaining plants will generate the equivalent of 20% of the current installed capacity. 

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According to the National Electric System, the maximum capacity of Chile’s coal-fired power plants stood at 5,526 MW with its current 28 generating units. Should the country successfully reach its 18 plant closure goal by 2040, Chile will only generate an estimated 1,965 MW of coal. 

At the moment, coal accounts for about a third of Chile’s power generation. Five years ago, it was at 44%. The country has already made progress in lowering their coal dependence and looking at renewable energy sources, which grew up to 46.5% in 2020. 

A study in 2020 found asthma attacks to have declined amongst residents who live in the vicinity of coal power plants following its closures. As coal plants release pollution including mercury, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides into the air, residents nearby are more susceptible to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. In addition to its progress towards carbon neutrality, the early closures of Chile’s coal-fired plants could help reduce health issues for its residents as well as improve the air quality in the region.