LEADING CLEAN ENERGY TRANSITION

Panama 2018 | GREEN ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Javier E. Gutiérrez Alzate, General Director of CELSIA, on the importance of developing a safety culture, solar-equipped houses, and growing demand for distribution generation opportunities.

Javier E. Gutiérrez Alzate
BIOGRAPHY
Javier E. Gutiérrez Alzate is the General Director of CELSIA. He has professional training in civil engineering from the School of Engineering of Antioquia in Colombia. He obtained degrees in administration and senior management at universities in the region. Currently, he serves as General Manager of CELSIA for Central America and Chairman of the Electric Mobility Commission of the World Energy Council Panama. During his career, he developed and executed different strategies for master plans of projects in the energy and cement sectors, in countries such as the US, Panama, and Colombia. In addition, he is a specialist in maritime terminals, commercialization, electric mobility, and security.

How was 2017 for CELSIA?

It was a spectacular year; we surpassed all our expectations. We were able to meet all our security indexes goals, as well as all the financial items we reported. In addition, 2017 was an excellent year in terms of revenue as we were able to achieve 110% income growth.

What are the main details of your alliance with Grupo Provivienda?

Provivienda and CELSIA have entered into an agreement to create a win-win project for the entire solar sector. We are involved in a project in which we will install 1,062 solar panels in the first phase, able to serve energy to 354 houses. In 2H2018, we estimate to have the first 20 houses ready and the remaining 334 houses shall be finished in 2019. In our business model, the price of the house includes the on-site solar solution and, therefore, the client can enjoy clean energy as soon as he acquires the house. Our joint goal with Provivienda is to develop 10,000 houses with solar energy within a decade.

What is the appeal of the Honduran market for CELSIA's expansion plans?

We are entering the Honduran market this year with the development of 10-MW solar power farm for Cementos Argos, a cement plant. Once settled in the country, we expect to find new opportunities in the industrial sector, particularly in the city of San Pedro Sula and the free trade zones. Additionally, we are looking forward to provide trigeneration systems (cooling, heating, and power) for the textile industry.

What is the importance of Panama for CELSIA?

The operation in Central America represents almost 24% of the company's EBITDA and revenue, with Panama alone representing around 20% of this EBITDA and revenue and 6% of EBITDA and revenue for Grupo Argos. Panama is our main financial headquarters in the region because of its connectivity and other advantages, notably its stable and strong economy and key geographical location. We are also starting to expand in distributed generation opportunities, which is a product that we foresee to have great demand in the country. Additionally, we have a project in Chiriquí to develop two solar power plants with a capacity between 10MW and 20MW. When this project is completed, the company's energy matrix in Panama will be 6% solar, 60% thermal, and 34% hydro. On the other hand, in Costa Rica we have a 55-MW wind farm, which we expect to double in size in the near future.

What steps are you taking to promote industrial safety?

Industrial safety is a challenge and an important policy for us. We are developing a safety culture in the company and are carrying out a program to achieve this. Safety is paramount to CELSIA, and we want to continue to expand in this area.

What is the main challenge in Panama's energy sector?

There are many challenges but the biggest one it to restructure Panama's transmission network. There are new players coming into the market as well, more so because of the progress in current discussions about the legal framework that regulates the country's energy sector. Therefore, we as a company need to be cautious about any upcoming competition and plan accordingly to further improve our services. In addition, there are certain issues with renewing long-term contracts that have been signed with private companies, and it remains to be seen how these will end up.

What are your goals for Panama in 2018?

We want to meet our safety and security goals and ensure that our generation assets are sustainable. Moreover, we need to strictly follow our timelines to complete all our solar and distributed generation projects.