CLEANING COLOMBIA

Colombia 2016 | ENERGY & MINING | FOCUS: RENEWABLES

For Colombia, clean energy is the lynchpin of its efforts to offset El Niño and meet its environmental goals.

According to the National Association of Energy Generators (Acolgen), hydropower is the most developed clean energy in Colombia. But every three to eight years the country is hit by “El Niño", which is characterized by severe droughts. This impacts directly the performance of hydroelectric plants, and that is why Colombia is beginning to explore other energy sources.

Colombia submitted its new climate action plan to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNCCC).

The largest expectation is focused on wind energy. These days, in Colombia there is only one wind plant located in La Guajira; a pilot project with a nominal power capacity of 19 MW, which represents only 0.4% of Colombia's estimated potential power. In addition, a recent report by the Colombian Ministry of Mines and Energy assures that in 2018, Colombia will be generating 3,000MW by wind energy alone.

In order to meet that goal, there are in course three important wind park projects developed by the company that will produce 474MW. The Director of the Ministry of Energy's agency UPME (Unidad de Planeacion Minero Energetica in Spanish), Jorge Valencia, said in a congress that these projects will be developed in La Guajira because it is the area with the biggest potential for wind energy.

Solar power is also yet to boom in the Andean country. Due to its location in the equatorial zone, Colombia has interesting prospectives. Recently, companies such as Energía del Pacífico (EPSA) invested more than COP1.24 billion in the construction of the largest solar energy laboratory located in the municipality of Yumbo. “This lab was created to try to reduce the carbon trace, to develop applied investigation of renewable energy and to lead the national change in these kinds of incentives," pointed out General Manager of EPSA, Oscar Ivan Zuluaga.
Another energy that has potential to grow is geothermal. The Colombian Institute of Electrical Energy and the Latin American Energy Organization have identified three potential areas for this source at Azufral in Nariño Department, Cerro Negro-Tufiño in Nariño, and Paipa in Boyaca. However, geothermal energy in Colombia remains in its infancy.

Biomass has a high potential due to Colombia's extensive agricultural industry. Biomass is made out of natural residues such as banana, rice, coffee pulp, and animal waste. Biomass barely represents 0.1% of the current electricity production, a very small figure although it can be totally altered in the following years due to its estimated power generation of 16 GW per year that can be applied for thermal and electrical usage.