Colombia's EPM eyeing solar expansion

Monday, March 12, 2018

In the first of a five-part interview, Jorge Londoño De la Cuesta, the CEO of Empresas Públicas de Medellín, speaks to BNamericas about the company's plans to incorporate non-conventional renewable energy into its generation portfolio. 

BNamericas: EPM recently inaugurated a "rooftop" photovoltaic energy project at Parque Comercial Tesoro in Medellín. Was that the beginning of a new stage for the company in which it's focusing on unconventional energy?

Londoño: Yes. On the subject of solar energy there are two types of initiatives: what we could call distributed generation, that's generally on roofs and is already in solar generation plants. The roofs at Tesoro have a very small capacity, serving just 25% of the demand of the shopping center. But we also have large-scale projects in the portfolio of what we're developing for the coming years. Solar is included in both regards, both to extend our supply of distributed generation and to start including in our generation matrix through solar plants.

BNamericas: Is the industry is waiting for more information on new regulations that will govern the segment?

Londoño: We still need to define a few points in the regulations, but the trend is irrefutable in any case. Here the development of the market is going to put pressure on the regulatory entity [Creg] to define that aspect.

BNamericas: And can you tell us anything new about large-scale projects?

Londoño: Our interest is to include both wind projects and solar projects in the portfolio of our generation matrix. The first point of this process is closely related to the location of the properties; where it's efficient to install wind operations or solar plants. At the moment we're in the process of locating the best properties for these developments.

These plants are more efficient if natural conditions are facilitated. I can't set up a wind farm where there's no wind. A wind farm can't just be placed anywhere. It is not just any place that has the optimal conditions. You have to find a location and see which are the best places depending on the continuity and speed of the winds that allow you to have an efficient wind farm in terms of generation.

BNamericas: I imagine you've looked a lot around the Caribbean?

Londoño: It's no mystery that wind and solar radiation in Colombia are much better on the Atlantic coast than in any other part of the country. Here in the Andean region the conditions aren't as good as in the north coast area and particularly La Guajira, where there's more radiation and more wind.

transmission line was recently auctioned to GEB that goes to La Guajira, specifically to facilitate the development of these projects, because I'm doing nothing by locating either a wind or solar generation plant if I don't have anywhere to transport what I produce. The government understood this need and for that reason it recently awarded the construction of this line, which will be developed by the Bogotá-based company, and that will facilitate the development of wind farms or solar parks in that part of Colombia.

About Jorge Londoño De la Cuesta

Londoño De la Cuesta es Ingeniero de Sistemas de la Universidad Eafit de Medellín, con formación académica del programa Presidentes de Empresas de la Universidad de los Andes de Bogotá. Durante 27 años se desempeñó como Gerente General de Invamer SAS, empresa en la que lideró estrategias de investigación y asesoría de mercados, business analytics y social media. Asumio la posición de Gerente General de EPM y líder del Grupo EPM en enero de 2016.

Londoño De la Cuesta is a systems engineer from the Universidad Eafit of Medellín, with academic training from the Presidents of Companies program at the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá. For 27 years he served as general manager of Invamer SAS, a company in which he led market research and advisory strategies, business analytics and social media. He assumed the position of general manager of EPM and leader of Grupo EPM in January 2016.

About the company

EPM is the largest utility company (energy, gas, water and telecommunications) in Colombia. It reaches 123 municipalities in the department of Antioquia. In Medellín and the Metropolitan Area of ​​the Aburrá Valley it serves 3.6mn people.