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.
The history of the Bocamina Thermoelectric Power Plant helps us understand the past, present, and future of electricity generation in the country. It was a fundamental pillar for Chile’s energy security and stability for half a century. In 2017, a modernization project was completed with an investment of US$200 million, bringing state-of-the-art technology to Bocamina and raising the bar for environmental management for coal-fired plants in Latin America.
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.
Bocamina I, 28 people entered this process, 17 of whom agreed to continue their professional development in areas such as Engineering and Construction, Operations and Maintenance of Renewable Energies, Health and Safety, and Environment and Quality. The remainder opted to take early retirement or re-employment plans with advantageous conditions.
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.
Following the announcement of the early closure of Bocamina I and II, the company announced that all commitments established with the community of Coronel would be respected and fulfilled. These commitments are mainly related to the resettlement of families and the fishing community.
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.
Creating new neighborhoods for resettled families also considers the re-establishment of livelihoods. That is to say, the conditions inherent to the human, social, and environmental development of the communities that inhabit them. The program is dedicated to the construction of social spaces and infrastructure, as well as sports venues and places of worship not considered in the previous stage of resettlement, in addition to the repair plan for more than 200 homes in two resettled communities in Coronel.
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.
This initiative, created in 2022, targets students from families that are part of the Enel resettlement plan in Coronel to collaborate with the further education of those who wish to extend their studies to a higher level, with a particular emphasis on improving access to education for girls in Coronel. This is the first initiative of its kind with a gender focus leading to 156 scholarships, of which 57% are for girls. Additionally, six talks and workshops were given by Fundación Ciencia Impacta, aimed at providing scholarship holders with the necessary tools for the integration of women in science, as well as talks on a gender approach in the academic world.
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.
Together with the Sembra NGO, this program has been run annually since 2017. Open to the entire micro-business community of the area. It places a particular emphasis on participants in the Enel resettlement program in Coronel. The objective is to support the growth of local enterprises, fostering their resilience and promoting the generation of value in the territory by encouraging the creation of value based on principles such as the circular economy, identity and heritage, and a gender approach. As of September 2022, some 249 enterprises have benefited from this initiative, 62% of which are women-led.
With three editions of this competitive fund already completed, the fund is aimed primarily at women processing seaweed and jerky, seaweed collectors, or artisanal fishers from the twenty unions that signed the collaboration agreement in 2019, with an emphasis on the economic and technical strengthening of local enterprises. As of September 2022, 1,930 businesses have benefited from this initiative, of which women lead 54%.
The "Pesca Innova" competitive fund started in 2021 and aimed at extending development opportunities for members of six Coronel unions under an agreement with Enel. Applicants can present productive projects related to pre and post-fishing activities or other areas of the local economy.
Our commitment is to lead the communities with whom we collaborate down the circular economy and sustainability path, instilling a culture of sustainability in the country. Within this framework, we held a training course on eco-friendly construction and eco furniture with a group of women from the Cerro Obligado neighborhood. Thanks to this project, Coronel now has its first eco-furniture store, "Entre Pallets," run by women from Coronel who transform pallets into furniture. The virtuous circle created is such that “Entre Pallets” receives its raw materials from industries throughout Coronel and has also developed its sales route.
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.
Enel has set itself the challenge of incorporating the circular economy into its processes to contribute to reducing the impact caused by climate change. The Bocamina Thermoelectric Power Plant Waste Recovery Project was one of the pioneers in this field.
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.
Following the disconnection of Bocamina II, Enel will maintain its presence in Coronel by appointing a Phase-Out Team to ensure safe dismantling, optimize the recovery of materials, and determine the future use of the plant site. Although unconfirmed, the company has asserted that this must align with its vision of sustainable development, ruling out the installation of any new power generation plants of non-renewable sources.