ENERGY THAT KEEPS ON GIVING

Colombia 2020 | GREEN ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

AES Colombia is not only working to bring clients renewable energy, but also laying the foundation for Colombia's renewable energy portfolio.

Federico Echavarría
BIOGRAPHY

Federico Echavarría has been General Manager of AES Colombia since 2009. Previously, he was AES Colombia's vice president for North America business development and vice president of North America Central. Echavarría joined AES in 2004. Prior to AES, he was general manager of Merilectrica, a local thermal generator, and head of investment banking at Corfinsura (now Bancolombia), a local private financial institution. He has also served as an alternate director of Bancolombia. He is an industrial engineer with an undergraduate degree from Universidad de Los Andes and holds an MBA degree from Harvard Business School.

AES is building the largest self-generation solar park in Colombia. What does this mean for the company, and how does it position it in the market?
Castilla Solar Park is the largest self-generation solar project in Colombia. We have been in a process of transforming a great company that owns 1,020MW of Colombia's hydro facilities into a portfolio of energy solutions that include different renewable technologies. We are not only talking about water, but also solar, wind, and batteries. 2019 was important because we consolidated that transformation. One of the key projects is Castilla Solar. But even more important is our project with Ecopetrol, the state-owned oil company. We have a long-term PPA with Ecopetrol that facilitates the development of these renewable projects, creating a great precedent for other companies in Colombia. This project will help Ecopetrol replace part of its energy matrix with cleaner energy and cut 154,000 tons of CO2 emissions. It will provide significant savings for Ecopetrol, around 30% in the energy produced at the Castilla oil field. AES Colombia is currently working to provide sustainable and competitive energy solutions to the most important consumers in Colombia.

Why did you acquire Cold Wind, which had an energy project in Colombia's north?
We want to ensure we develop the most sustainable and competitive portfolio in Colombia. We did plenty of analysis of how we could combine Chivor's hydro plant with other types of technologies to make ours the country's most sustainable and competitive portfolio. What we found is that wind and hydro make the perfect match. We explored multiple alternatives and found that the best wind was in La Guajira region, so we acquired Jemeiwaa Kai, the country's largest wind development project. With Jemeiwaa Kai, we won 29% of the government's tender auction, making AES one of Colombia's main players in the energy transformation space. In order to develop projects, it is important to have long-term contracts, which is a key element that the Colombian market doesn't have. Under the leadership of Minister of Energy María Fernanda Suárez, we had the first long-term contract auctions in Colombia and the opportunity to start building the future of energy in Colombia.

You signed a contract with Gensa to sell unconventional energy for 15 years. Which other companies might you work with in the future?
What differentiates us is that we want to work with our clients to provide energy solutions. We are working with large commercial and industrial users, both for grid and on-site energy. We are also working with wholesale companies like Gensa that want to have renewable energy to rebalance their portfolio. We also work with distribution companies. Utility companies were our main buyers in this renewable auction, so we have a product that is not only 100% renewable, but also complementary and competitive for the Colombian market.

The energy sector has historically been composed of men. What campaigns are you carrying out to involve women?
The percentage of men in this sector is around 90%. We had a great experience in Castilla Solar Park. The expectation was that 95% of the workforce was going to be men. Through working with our contractors, we saw the possibility of involving women in the construction process. As a result, more than 100 people, 29% of the total workforce, were women. It was nice because for many of them it was their first job. They felt proud to be part of a project that reflects the energy transformation of a whole country. AES is committed to the inclusion of women in the energy sector, and we expect to have more female workers at all levels in our organization.