TOWARD UNIVERSAL ENERGY COVERAGE

Colombia 2018 | GREEN ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ricardo Humberto Ramírez Carrero, General Director of UPME, on its various efforts to build up the energy and mining sectors, boosting the production of renewable energy, and upcoming challenges.

Ricardo Humberto Ramírez Carrero
BIOGRAPHY
Ricardo Humberto Ramírez Carrero undertook his undergraduate studies in electrical engineering at Universidad Industrial de Santander and his graduate studies in energy at Sheffield University. With more than 30 years of experience in the energy sector, in both public and private fields, Ramírez has carried out duties as Chief of the Mining and Energy Division at the National Planning Department, Expert Commissioner at the National Regulation Commission for Energy and Gas, Technical Secretary for National Operation Counsel in Natural Gas, and Supervising Manager at the ANH. In the academic arena, Ramírez has carried out duties as professor at National University and Santander Industrial University.

How do you assess your commitment toward a resilient energy and mining sector here?

The unit must ensure the national supply of energy and minerals. In that sense, we have to plan for electrical energy, hydrocarbons, and mining, and from that a lot of related activities are derived to be able to guide investors, which is our main focus, in terms of transport, transformation, and usage. The goal is to allow a complete supply, and we have suggested mandatory plans. We must also evaluate projects with applicable tax incentives as non-conventional sources of energy and for energy efficiency projects in transport, industry, household consumption, and buildings. We participate in the evaluation of public funds to promote energy efficiency. In post-conflict issues, we also have an interesting role in evaluating projects that aim to extend coverage. We have almost universal energy coverage but still have some gaps. We are also committed to the use of modern fuels in Colombia and the substitution of wood. We have a commitment to the country to build the required electrical transmission infrastructure. The planning work at an institutional level is rare. In that sense, we believe we can be leaders in Latin America in terms of energy and mining planning.

What commitments do you have for the development of those areas which are highly undeveloped?

In terms of planning, there are two Colombian institutions specifically in extractive activities: the National Hydrocarbons Agency (ANH) and the National Mining Agency (ANM). We use their information to plan, which in turn gives them more information to do their work. One of the objectives of the mining plan is to guide ANM in terms of title assignation. In terms of energy coverage, we evaluate public projects, and another part is accomplished by evaluating projects of coverage expansion for energy transport infrastructure and credit opportunities to achieve this in 10 years. In terms of fuel, the strategy is incomplete. We do have the trouble areas localized and the alternatives to address them, but have not advanced in terms of implementation.

What is your strategy for renewable energies?

The ministry issued a decree on energy policy less than a month ago, and it establishes that long-term contracts must have certain characteristics related to diversification of the matrix, resiliency, and other criteria, contributing to the financial leverage for renewable energy contracts. In our work of ensuring transmission infrastructure, we have chosen investors that allow us to bring renewable energy from the places where it is abundant, basically the north of the country, on La Guajira peninsula. We also give tax incentives to goods and services related to the supply of energy from non-conventional sources. The regulatory commission just expedited a resolution to boost the small-scale production of renewable energies. We also plan the generation and transmission to allow the development of renewables. We are also participating in the project of the ministry to have a tender, and this is widely expected. We also do a constant evaluation of which resources are available. We have an atlas of solar, wind, and hydro power resources. For natural gas, we can ensure the supply for the next decade, largely thanks to the increasing production capability of our gas fields.

What are the challenges for 2018?

The main challenge for the next government is to launch the national energy plan, or at least have it in discussion and development. It has been 10 years since we launched the last formal plan. The refined products supply plan, regarding the supply of fuel and diesel, must also be discussed. The third challenge is related to our work to reopen the regasification plant and the related gas pipe—a structure worth USD700 million—through the ministry's first renewable energy tender. The way to promote this internationally is to have clear rules and infrastructure for the purchase and a contract that makes the projects profitable.