Ex-Codelco boss to lead power firm, push for Chile’s most controversial project

Ex-Codelco boss to lead power firm, push for Chile’s most controversial project

Keller may become Colbun's superhero if he keeps the massive $9 billion HidroAysen power project alive.

Former Chile’s Codelco chief executive officer Thomas Keller will take the reins of power generator Colbun next month as the company looks to keep the massive $9 billion HidroAysen power project, the country's largest and most-controversial power project, alive.

Colbun and joint venture partner Endesa Chile recently appealed in August the cancellation of the permit for project, signalling the 2,750-megawatt dam complex was ready to put up a fight.

"Thomas will be responsible for leading the company and its collaborators in a new growth plan that will combine organic growth in Chile with eventual investment opportunities in other market in the region," Colbun board chairman Bernardo Larrain Matte told La Tercera (in Spanish).

Looming energy crisis

Keller, a former retail executive, was commended for his efforts to overhaul old mines and cut costs at Codelco, the world’s No.1 copper producer, but his tough style triggered tensions with the company's powerful unions.

Chile, the world’s top copper producer, suffers from a chronic energy shortfall that has begun affecting the competitiveness of its mining sector and cramping economic growth.

Experts say Chile needs to triple its current 18,000-megawatt capacity in the next 15 years, but the nation lacks domestic oil or natural gas resources. The dams were planned to generate a total of 2,750 megawatts, almost a third of central Chile's current needs, within 12 years.

Image courtesy of Codelco, via Flickr.