Economy Minister Felix de Vicente said an appeals court ruling blocking construction of the Punta Alcalde thermoelectric project in northern Chile was "bad news" because it would hinder the energy-strapped Andean nation's competitiveness.

In an interview with online media outlet Emol, De Vicente said Friday that Chile "has lost competitiveness because of the electricity issue. Therefore, it's bad news from the standpoint of our country's economic development and competitiveness."

He added that "we're seeing that energy demand in Chile is growing much faster than the projects that are starting to produce electricity."

The appeals court sided with plaintiffs who opposed Endesa Chile's $1.4 billion, 740 MW thermoelectric project, located 700 kilometers (435 miles) north of Santiago, on environmental grounds.

It rejected a decision by a ministerial group that had given the green light for the project last December. EFE