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Groundbreaking: Colombia has the potential to fully meet its energy demand through renewable sources Hydroelectric plants account for roughly


70%of its energy generation andEl Niño can dis- rupt that significantly. According to a paper by Oxford Energy Forum published in 2018, the country has limited storage capacity for hydro- power: only 6% of total capacity in reservoirs can conserve water for more than six months. The report explains: “Under normal condi-


tions hydro accounts for 85% of total genera- tion, but, during El Niño events, this share falls to 65%, typically for five to 12 months.” Mr Dixon also notes that the auctions in


2021, and resulting capacity connected in 2022, marks a “step change” for the country. From zero to almost six gigawatts of utility is a sharp rise, he stresses.


Governmentoversell Naturally, this jump from just a fewyears ago is the result of strong government incentives for energy companies to invest in Colombia and connect to the grid, as illustrated by its compet- itive auction prices. Bogotá attorney at Holland & Knight, José


Zapata, says that there is an “important over- sell” in these incentives, however. Mr Zapata says that renewable energy com-


panies face the same problems faced by the non- renewable energy companies before them, such as issues regarding consultation with indige- nous populations and public hostility to the construction of wind turbines or solar panels. “At the end of the day, renewables are more


expensive and there is limited capacity on the grid,” he adds, citing the La Guajira region as poorly connected. Colombia’s wind resources are concen-


trated in a few regions with limited demand, such as La Guajira, and with the greatest demand in the capital and bigger cities. Yet, as you move further away from the centres of


strong demand, the carrying capacity of the lines falls away considerably.


Anawkwardsituation As for the consultations with the indigenous population, Mr Zapata cites one project where the investor was supposed to consult the indig- enouscommunities, but they said that they did not examine the proposal closely enough and their permits were suspended. He deems the whole situation “awkward”,


adding that one would have expected stronger, more unified support across the government and the courts. By contrast, Gerardo Viña-Vizcaíno, con-


sultant and sustainability adviser, refutes the idea that the blame for such disputes lies with the government. Instead, he maintains these non-interconnected regions “must be con- nected and managed entirely by government”. Mr Viña-Vizcaíno says that “the country is


planning to choose extra viability from renewa- ble sources”, but remarks that this is a “political commitment rather than an emissions one”. Colombia’s main source of energy, hydro,


is “clean”, he says, and, notwithstanding a Covid slump, it is also a large exporter of coal. The government’s focus, Mr Viña-Vizcaíno expects, will be on leveraging renewables in the industrial sector and on energy exports. President Ivan Duque has also said that


Colombia is developing a green hydrogen road- map with Chile, another renewables exponent in the region. But it is possible that one of the country’s


recurring problems rears its head once more. “Cross-country electricity trade is set to


augment over the coming years,” Mr Morelli says. “However, the weak interconnection between the countries’ grids remains a key obstacle to cross-country transmission.”■


December 2020/January 2021 www.fDiIntelligence.com 61


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