Hidroituango passes final tests, begins operations

Bnamericas Published: Thursday, December 15, 2022
Hidroituango passes final tests, begins operations

Empresas Públicas de Medellín (EPM) has launched commercial operations at its long-delayed Hidroituango power plant after completing final tests of the first two generation units. 

The plant in northwestern Colombia has started delivering continuous electricity supply from 600MW of capacity to the national grid, four years later than originally planned. 

"We did it. As we promised, we brought Hidroituango online," Medellín mayor Daniel Quintero said in a social media post. "From this moment on, it ceases to be a project and becomes the Ituango Hydroelectric Power Plant, which will generate energy for the entire country."

The announcement followed successful simulation testing with maximum power load on Wednesday, EPM said in a statement.

The exercise required the preventive evacuation of some 4,200 people from the municipalities of Ituango, Briceño, Tarazá and Valdivia, located downstream from the plant's reservoir on the Cauca River. 

EPM said the tests were conducted under the supervision of national disaster risk management agency Dagran, licensing authority ANLA and the attorney general's office, among other public entities. 

"These two Ituango units allow us to exceed the 4,000MW of energy that EPM already generates today and that represent clean, high-quality energy that contributes to the country's competitiveness and productivity," EPM power generation chief Carlos Orduz said. 

Late last month, EPM said it avoided the prospect of multimillion-dollar fines after declaring the troubled project ready for commercial operations.

The announcement came just hours before a deadline imposed by energy sector regulator Creg for the first two turbines to be available. 

Located in Antioquia department, Hidroituango has suffered a series of construction problems that first became apparent when an auxiliary tunnel collapsed in April 2018, eight months before the plant was due to begin operating. 

EPM, whose majority shareholder is the city of Medellín, is aiming to complete the project in 2024, providing 17% of Colombia's electricity demand from eight units totaling 2,400MW.

The overall cost of the project is expected to reach 18tn pesos (US$3.79bn) in a best-case scenario, representing an overrun of around 7tn pesos on its original budget.

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