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Renewable additions to accelerate in Colombia

  • : Electricity
  • 24/01/19

Non-conventional renewable energy (NCRE) capacity additions in Colombia could accelerate sharply this year as over 1GW of projects are set to come online, after regulatory and social challenges hindered the sector last year.

Colombia added 224MW of new NCRE capacity in 2023, lifting NCRE capacity to 467MW. Additions in 2022 were 243MW.

But the country will reach the 1GW mark by May 2024, according to renewable association SER's director Alexandra Hernandez, a goal that the government had expected to reach by the end of 2023. Long permitting processes, higher taxes for the sale of renewable electricity and community backlash hit a previously projected faster growth in renewables.

More than 1,100MW of solar and almost 32MW of wind projects are currently in the testing phase. If all projects come into operation as scheduled, the country would have 1.55GW of renewable capacity by end of year.

Of the 1,100MW solar plants, five have capacity ranging from 100MW-370MW, another five from 20MW-80MW, and the rest are smaller plants. The solar projects fed over 4,000MWh/day of electricity to the grid in the first week of January, data from grid operator XM show.

Government policies to speed tracking progressseems to be working, Adrian Correa, director of the government's mining and planning unit Upme told Argus. Correa believes the government's target of 6GW of NCRE capacity by August 2026 is likely to be reached given the implementation of periodic monitoring of generation projects. This has helped identify and manage solutions to the environmental, social and permitting problems.

But renewable projects still face hurdles as some communities demand formal consultation processes, even though they do not live in the areas where projects are planned.

Regulation should also be reviewed because the norms say that larger renewable plants must tell XM the prior day how much electricity they will sell to the market. If they fail to deliver the amount committed, XM levies a fine, Alejandro Piñeros, director of regulation at the consulting firm Optima says.

Enel's projects dominate

Among the projects planned to be operational this year are Italian Enel Green Power's 132.2MW Fundacion and 187MW La Loma solar farms.

Both projects are 95pc advanced and should start delivering electricity on a commercial basis during the first half 2024.

Construction of the Guayepo I and II solar farms, with a combined capacity of 486.7MW is more than 60pc advanced. The plants began testing phases on 26 December and will begin commercial operation in the fourth quarter 2024, Enel said. The project costs $290mn and is in the Caribbean Atlantico province.

Guayepo will generate around 1,030 GWh/yr of electricity once completed — equivalent to generating electricity to supply 770,000 inhabitants. Colombia's largest beer company Bavaria will use electricity produced to supply Bavaria's seven breweries after signing a power and purchase agreement (PPA).

Other smaller projects with operations targeted for this year are French firm Green Yellow's solar farms with a combined capacity of 49.5MW.

Meanwhile, the Dinamarca and Versalles solar projects with 14MW of capacity each began commercial operations in the second week of January. The 14MW La Mena will begin commercial operations by the end of January, Green Yellow said.

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