Colombia on blackout alert amid project delays, political infighting

Bnamericas Published: Tuesday, January 31, 2023
Colombia on blackout alert amid project delays, political infighting

Colombia must act now to avert the threat of an energy supply deficit as the sector grapples with project delays and poor planning, trade and consumer groups have warned. 

The Colombian Petroleum Association (ACP), energy consumer group Andesco and power generation guild Acolgen each called for steps to ensure a shortage does not occur in the next two years. 

Among the delayed works are three transmission projects belonging to Grupo Energía Bogotá – the Colectora, Southwestern and Sogamoso lines – as well as Enel's Windpeshi grid link. 

"The projects are the responsibility of the developers, who are required to cover the costs caused by delays," Asoenergía executive director Sandra Fonseca said. 

She added: "The work schedules must be more precise and need to be respected."

GEB chief executive Juan Ricardo Ortega has said the biggest hurdle facing the projects is Colombia's cumbersome prior consultation process, which requires direct negotiations with every community affected by a project. 

A case in point is the Colectora transmission link, which will connect a series of renewable energy projects in the Caribbean coastal region to the national grid. Work on the line has been stalled by the need for dialogue with more than 200 communities.

Compounding matters, according to ACP, is a decision to stop issuing new licenses for oil and gas exploration. 

ACP president Francisco Lloreda has said dwindling reserves will mean Colombia could soon be forced to import gas to meet domestic demand.

Those fears were backed up by an assertion from energy ministry planning unit UPME that Colombia is at risk of an electricity shortage by 2026 if new supply is not secured.  

Former deputy energy minister Belizza Ruiz added weight to the concerns on Monday by warning that Bogotá faced the imminent threat of blackouts because of delayed grid expansion works. 

According to Ruiz, who left the position last week after a row with energy minister Irene Vélez, said the government is currently finalizing details of a new auction of firm energy. 

“The auction will mainly be for solar and wind energy projects," said Ruiz, who accused Vélez of misleading the public by publishing false information related to oil and gas reserves.

Meanwhile, Acolgen criticized a decision by President Gustavo Petro to assume control of energy services watchdog Creg.

In a statement, Acolgen said the decision "weakened the institutional framework" of Colombia's energy sector and "jeopardized the confidence of investors."

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