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Linking Chile's power grids will ease prices -Pinera

SANTIAGO, Jan 30 (Reuters) - President Sebastian Pinera said on Thursday linking Chile's two main power grids will ease steep energy prices and boost competition.

His comments came a day after Chilean energy company E-CL said it was starting construction on a $700 million transmission line to link the power-strapped Andean country's northern SING grid to the central SIC grid.

"This will strengthen the country's transmission system and undoubtedly help lower average energy prices, which will benefit consumers, companies and development and competitiveness," Pinera said in a speech.

E-CL, which is majority owned by utility GDF Suez, has said it is looking for one or more partners to develop the project and is studying how best to finance it.

Chile needs to double its energy matrix in coming years to satisfy surging demand, chiefly from power-hungry miners and industry.

But several power investments have fallen by the wayside as social groups increasingly sue massive projects over threats to glaciers, health, indigenous rights and biodiversity.