(Adds comment from Enel, Mainstream, context, share reaction)
By Felipe Iturrieta and Rosalba O‘Brien
SANTIAGO, Aug 17 (Reuters) - European renewable energy companies were among the biggest winners in a massive energy auction to supply Chile with power for two decades from the 2020s, the country’s Energy Ministry said on Wednesday.
Successful bidders included Italian utility Enel’s local arm Endesa, private renewable energy developer Mainstream, and Spanish firms Acciona Energia, Ibereolica, and Cox Energy.
The average winning price was $47.6 per megawatt hour, well below original market expectations of around $80.
The auction to supply a total of 12,430 gigawatt hours annually for 20 years - Chile’s largest ever - had been competitive, thanks to aggressively low priced bids, mainly from renewables.
The cheap prices secured are good news for Chile’s consumers and energy-intensive copper mining industry, which have suffered with some of Latin America’s highest power costs in recent years. But they do not bode so well for the incumbent energy suppliers.
Company executives pointed to the tender rules as encouraging competitive pricing.
“Enel is now well positioned to expand its leadership in efficient and sustainable power generation in Chile,” said Francesco Starace, the chief executive of Enel, which won the most overall capacity, securing nearly 6,000 gigawatt hours.
The European utility has bet big on lucrative emerging markets to make up for sluggish growth at home.
Dublin-headquartered Mainstream said it will spend $1.65 billion to build seven wind energy plants. Its winning bids were priced between $39 and $47 per MWH.
“It’s unusual to have this amount of time to close a renewable energy project, so that gives us time to take advantage of price drops,” Chile country manager Bart Doyle told Reuters.
Wind power accounted for 40 percent of the winning bids, and solar around 10 to 12 percent, Energy Minister Maximo Pacheco said at a presentation of the results.
But the low prices - over 60 percent below the average obtained in a 2013 auction - led power stocks listed in Santiago down on Wednesday, with local firms like AES Gener and Colbun left in the cold after their higher bids were unsuccessful.
“The focus in this case was the price and it went beyond expectations,” said Pacheco.
“With these electricity prices, we are going to be more competitive and productive.”
It would also spur an estimated $3 billion in investment, he said, as more than half the infrastructure needed to supply the winning bids remains to be constructed.
Reporting by Felipe Iturrieta and Rosalba O'Brien; Editing by Marguerita Choy, Bernard Orr