Bocamina: The route of an unprecedented process

The voluntary and definitive closure of the Bocamina plant, eighteen years ahead of schedule, not only marks a milestone in the decarbonization of our energy matrix but also sets a precedent as we continue our push towards a fair energy transition in the country, guided by the principles of business and human rights.


A milestone for Enel and Chile

September 30th, 2022, has marked an historic step in the transition to a cleaner and renewable energy matrix for Chile. With the definitive shutdown of Bocamina II, Enel became the first company to close all of its coal-fired plants voluntarily.

This is the culmination of a process that began with the signing of the National Decarbonization Plan in June 2019, when Enel Chile and its subsidiaries voluntarily committed to the early closure of all its coal-powered plants. On December 31, 2019, the coal unit of the Tarapacá power plant was disconnected, followed by Bocamina I on December 31 that same year.

In line with the company’s purpose of spearheading a fair energy transition, on May 27, 2020, Enel Generación’s board of directors announced its decision to shut down the last of its coal-fired plants, Bocamina II, eighteen years ahead of schedule, with the authorization of Chile’s National Energy Commission (CNE).

Along with the closure of all its coal-powered plants, Enel Chile’s 2022-2024 Strategic Plan sets out to consolidate its position as the nation’s leading energy company by way of growth in its renewable capacity with solar, wind, and geothermal projects, together with the development of energy storage systems. The company’s long-term vision is to achieve carbon neutrality by 2040.

A half-century of energy

The Bocamina power plant opened in 1970. During its first two decades, it was an essential part of Chile’s economic development, providing stability to the electrical system and the coal industry in Coronel and nearby Lota. Its role became prevalent once again during the water crisis in the 1990s and once again in 2007 when Argentina cut off its natural gas supply, exposing our country to climatic and international fluctuations.

That same year, Enel embarked on an extraordinary process of dialogue, retroactive review, and gap remediation, with human rights at its core in terms of previous resettlement plans and re-established relations with artisanal fishers and communities. The aim was to develop programs that strengthened economic autonomy at a local level, with an emphasis on entrepreneurship, circular economy, and gender approach.

Following the announcement of the early closure of Bocamina I and II, the company confirmed that a fair transition process would occur considering the impact on work, community, environmental, and economic spheres of the plant’s disconnection.

In line with the above, the company offered job reconversion to insert each of Enel’s 56 direct employees working at Bocamina II into other company business lines, along with job reintegration alternatives for those who decided to opt for other professional projects.

Additionally, the leading contracting companies providing services to the Bocamina Power Plant are part of the Trade Retraining and Labor Skills Accreditation Programs. Through both programs, Enel Chile will be able to work with a diverse universe of profiles and qualifications, whether through Chile’s National Service for Training and Employment (SENCE) or directly through the programs managed by the company.

A fresh look at Coronel

Our purpose is to “empower sustainable progress," which guides us in each community's socio-economic development. In Coronel, we set up a new community relations model, following an unprecedented review of all previous processes, which has since seen the resettlement of 1,370 families, in line with standard N° 5 of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) for involuntary resettlement. This decision resulted in an investment of US$120 million, dedicated exclusively to recovering resettling families' social, physical, and economic capital. The latter included the reconstruction of six social centers and eight churches, support for 249 enterprises through the ‘Coronel Emprende’ competitive fund, and 156 higher education students who received the Rosa Medel Scholarship.

Work is ongoing with the local fishing community to build a long-term perspective for artisanal fishing, bolstering the infrastructure of the 21 trade union associations with which we are related, and strengthening 1,930 fishing family enterprises as of September 2022 through competitive funding. A further 600 will be added in the short term, also benefiting from the funding.

Bocamina’s social and environmental plan complies with human rights guidelines.


The history of the community in a wall art story

Coronel is the first commune in Chile to be part of the "Open Power to Art" project, a global initiative that transforms Enel plants into open-air art galleries. The murals result from a participatory process with residents who select the most representative stories. In Coronel, it started with fourteen focus groups and the active participation of 37 volunteers, who captured the heritage and history of Coronel with over 3,200 square meters of urban art and 7,800 square meters of green areas.


Local economic autonomy

Since 2017, we have run annual programs that aim to decouple the economic dependence of Coronel’s communities from the area’s industries. As of September 2022, a total of 3,300 communal enterprises have been strengthened through a range of competitive funds, of which 54% are led by women, promoting the recovery of components of heritage and identity such as “miner’s bread” and artisanal fishing. The enormous contribution of these programs also consists in creating and formalizing several SMEs and, consequently, strengthening economic autonomy in Coronel.


Just Transition: The Environment

Since 2019, the Bocamina ash dump has been the subject of an ambitious ecological remediation project, which seeks to convert it into an area of native forest within the city of Coronel. Designed and developed by Foresta Nativa at the Universidad of Concepción, the initiative has included soil rehabilitation, the selection of species, and the design of a plantation that respects natural distribution and the necessary levels and control of irrigation. Some ten hectares will be set aside as public spaces for the communities of Coronel.

Additionally, the plant's modernization plans as of 2007 allowed Bocamina to operate until its disconnection from the region's pioneering environmental and technological standards.


The World’s Largest Dome

In 2017 and 2018, the coal storage yards (north and south) were covered by geodesic domes preventing emissions from being released into the environment due to the movement of material or wind. These vast insulating domes made Bocamina the plant with the highest coal-handling standards in Chile and South America. Abatement systems were installed in both plant units, allowing us to fully comply with the emission limits indicated under current regulations and in environmental authorizations, together with a continuous emissions monitoring system (CEMS), with data transmitted online to the environmental authorities. State-of-the-art filters were also incorporated into the water adduction system.

As much as 80% of the gypsum and ash from Bocamina’s processes was revalued as by-products for cement and concrete production through contracts signed with local cement companies that reuse these materials. With this, we avoid its disposal in landfills, improve the cement industry's competitiveness by reducing its dependence on natural gypsum and avoid CO2 and PM10 transportation emissions, bringing numerous positive knock-on effects for the environment and the people of Coronel and surrounding areas.

Furthermore, 2019 saw the launch of an unrivaled revegetation project to reconvert the Bocamina ash dump into an area of native forest within the city of Coronel. The landfill has a total area of ​​approximately ten hectares. This initiative is headed by Enel Generación, advised by specialists from Foresta Nativa of the Universidad de Concepción.

The technology applied for the waterproofing of the terrain plays a fundamental role. The project involves using innovative techniques for the soil's preparation for revegetation. It takes into account the filling of materials divided into five layers, including geocells, geodrains, geomembranes, filling with sediments, and substrates, to cover the ash collected by the operation at the plant and thus make for the planting of different species of trees, plants, and shrubs, on a suitable material.