Wind can tame Colombia's El Niño power scourge, says analyst

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Colombia's vast untapped wind potential can combat the crippling effects of El Niño weather patterns on its hydro-dominated power grid, an analyst told BNamericas.

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About two-thirds of Colombia's electricity supply comes from large hydroelectric plants with the remainder almost exclusively sourced from thermoelectric generators.

David Harbord, the director of Market Analysis, called for greater incentives that allow renewable sources to complement hydropower during times of drought.

"There appears to be a natural complementarity (or hedge) between hydro on the one hand, and wind generation on the other," Harbord said in an exclusive interview.

"During periods of el Niño, less rain coincides with stronger winds. Any assessment of the backup sources to hydro generation should reflect this complementarity."

Harbord said shorter construction periods and simpler environmental impact studies were other factors in wind's favor.

He added that the capacity payment system for non-conventional renewable power created an uneven playing field.

"The capacity credit factor for energy from wind and solar should reflect the contribution of these technologies to system reliability at times of water shortage, especially during El Niño periods," Harbord said. "Of course, the complementarity has to be demonstrated for the specific plant in question."

The full interview with Harbord can be seen in the week's Electric Power Perspectives, for subscribers.