How is your company contributing to clean energy in Colombia?
WALFREDO LINHARES We produce ethanol that is used as a fuel and additive for gasoline. This same ethanol can be used in solvents and paintings. With minor investments, the plant can also produce ethanol for liquors. The ethanol has different grades, such as fuel grade, industrial grade, and potable beverage grade. We also use bagasse, a byproduct of sugarcane, as a fuel for biomass boilers, which produce steam. Today, we have 43MW in capacity, enough to supply the entire city of Puerto Lopez and its vicinity. In terms of expansion, we have the benefit to be in the backyard of agricultural areas. We do not have any constraints in terms of land availability or water availability to grow our production. Today, the company has the capacity to grow up to 30% with minor investments.
YULIETH PORRAS OSORIO In the Colombian market, there are two types of users; the regulated users, which are the residential and commercial users with low consumption, and the non-regulated ones, which are those that have high energy consumption, usually industries and large stores. The non-regulated users compete freely in the market to choose their supplier.The regulated users of Pereira municipality are served by other energy marketers and not by the company. At present, we cover 80 of more than 93 unregulated users in the city, and another 30 outside the city; we have also started looking for users in other regions of the country. In the future, the business will be less about supplying and selling energy and more about selling energy solutions, such as solar photovoltaic systems. This way we will also be able to inject energy into the grid. One of the best ways to measure the growth of a country is through the happiness level of its citizens. With this idea in mind, we invented what we call the balance of business organization and energy, which is the summary of our strategic plan where the first indicator that is measured is the index of customer satisfaction. The other is the level of satisfaction of our employees. Moving forward, we have to get involved in regulatory issues, working with the municipal administration and the national government. We want to go beyond economic targets and make sure that our users are happy and that Pereira is a technologically advanced, and sustainable city.
What are your plans for the future?
WL Technological innovation is intense in the agriculture sector. You can innovate on the sugarcane, for instance. That requires a lot of investment, but you can grow sugarcane that is suited to hot summers, wet winters, and the soil and the diseases you can have in the region. Innovation also comes from harvesting technology. Our planting and harvesting processes are 100% mechanized. We are the only company in Colombia that has mechanized 100% of its operation. We do not use manual labor to plant and harvest. It is the use of technology that is a breakthrough in the country. We can use GPS to drive the equipment, so we know exactly where each sugarcane is planted. We see the use of AI in the future, and we can already collect data from the fields as well. I see the future of this business being driven more and more by technology and innovation.
YPO We have been invited to different forums through the associations, both local and national, we have been linked with over the past four years. We are also selling the idea to all the different industries in Pereira, showing our projects and environment-friendly vehicles. Building a solar farm in Colombia four years ago was not financially viable but new regulations have made it possible. For example, tax benefits have reduced a solar farm's cost per kilowatt to between COP180-190 (USD0.056-0.06), meaning solar energy can compete with hydroelectric energy. Undoubtedly, the future lies in the generation of alternative energies.