Colombia enlists ports in quest to equip renewable auction winners

Energy Minister Maria Fernanda Suárez, here pictured to the right of president Iván Duque, said the port dispensation will help deliver solar and wind projects meant to diversify Colombia's hydro-reliant power mix. Image credit: Colombian Ministry of Energy and Mines

Colombia is to mobilise private players to ensure solar and wind components from abroad can reach auction project winners, powering the renewable shift of a nation scaling positions in global energy transition rankings.

The Latin American country will allow private ports to process imported green energy equipment even if the counterparty has no prior ties with the port operators, doing away with a legal obstacle for solar and wind firms looking to source components at the time of COVID-19.

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In a new statement, Colombia’s Energy Ministry said it hopes the “exceptional” measure will ease the importing of solar and wind parts, allowing developers to choose from a wider array of port locations and ultimately speeding up the commissioning of projects.

According to the statement, the special permission will be granted on a case-by-case basis. Colombian private ports keen to become a gateway for renewable equipment will have to show they meet a new set of requirements, set out by the country’s Transport Ministry.

The port waiver is meant to bring down the logistical barriers for the 14 renewable projects working to complete construction nationwide by 2022. From nine wind schemes in La Guajira to five PV counterparts in César and others, the pipeline is scattered across Colombia’s north and west.

These 14 green energy projects – winners all of either last October's renewable auction or last March's separate “reliability charge” tender  – will spark total investments of 7 trillion Colombian pesos (US$1.87 billion), according to Energy Minister María Fernanda Suárez.

Colombia's renewable auction highlights of 2019

4 March 2019: PV secures 238MW at Colombia’s ‘reliability charge’ auction (see here to read the PV Tech story in full)

Two PV developers have won contracts to provide power in 2022 and 2023 at a Colombian auction designed to boost supply in the event of droughts. At a respective 170MW and 68MW, Enel and Emgesa were the two successful PV bidders at the so-called “reliability charge” tender held last week. The auction tendered a combined 4.01GW in new capacity across all forms of energy, renewable or otherwise. Solar’s aggregate 238MW placed it far behind hydropower’s 1.372GW, thermal power’s 1.24GW and wind power’s 1.16GW.

23 October 2019Colombia awards 1.3GW of solar and wind in ‘historic’ first renewable auction (see here to read the PV Tech story in full)

Colombia's national mining and energy planning unit (UPME) has awarded 1.3GW of solar and winds contracts in what the Energy Ministry has called “a historic step towards the renewable energy revolution in Colombia”. The winners included three solar projects by Trina Solar, including CSF Continua San Felipe (90MW) and CSF Continua Cartago (99MW).

In her statement, Colombia’s top energy policy maker said the 14-strong green energy pipeline will create 6,000 new jobs and foster economic growth even as they help diversify a hydro power-reliant, climate-vulnerable national power mix.

Colombia’s efforts to shelter renewable imports from COVID-19 disruption come after the country enacted lockdown measures to contain the pandemic. At 27,000-plus cases, reported infections remain some way below Brazil’s (514,849), Peru’s (164,476), Chile’s (99,688) and others.

Recent stats from planning body UPME suggest solar will be central to Colombia's green energy campaign. The figures, published in April, showed that 9.47GW of PV projects had been proposed as of the end of Q1 2020, passing hydro (4.4GW), wind (2.5GW) and thermal power (1.9GW).

In line with the winners of renewable auctions, the avalanche of solar project proposals revolves around high-irradiation departments in the north, including La Guajira (1.84GW, 13 projects), Santander (1.44GW, 23 projects) and César (1.31GW, 26 projects).

In recent months, PV Tech has charted the progress of some of the firms part of the solar rush, including Cubico-Celsia (400MW), Invenergy (400MW), Diverxia (240MWp) and AES Gener, who last year settled on Colombia as one of the two locations for a 1.6GW renewable push.

Interviewed for a PV Tech Power feature, solar operators were largely confident in Colombia’s odds of success with renewables. Some, however, urged the state not to overlook the need for grid investments in the congested north, where demand for connection points is highest.

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