Colombia plans 2021 renewables auction to become ‘leader in Latin America’s energy transition’

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A 9.9MW solar PV plant developed in Colombia by Celsia. Image: Celsia.

The government of Colombia has announced plans to hold a renewable energy auction in the first quarter of 2021 that it says could represent an investment of more than US$6 billion in the country.

Speaking at the inauguration of a new solar farm in the city of Cartagena, President Iván Duque said the auction will make the country a “leader in Latin America’s energy transition”.

“In just 27 months we have multiplied the installed renewable capacity in the country by five and in the next 22 months we are going to multiply it by more than 20 times,” he added.

The renewables auction, which will be Colombia’s third, will be for projects that are set to be operational by December 2022. Conditions of the auction process will be defined and announced by the country's Ministry of Mines and Energy.

Colombia’s green energy ramp-up has seen it go from less than 50MW of installed renewables in 2018 to more than 2.8GW set to be online by the end of 2022, according to Diego Mesa, minister of Mines and Energy. “This new auction will allow the country to further take advantage of the potential solar generation,” he said.

The announcement comes after Colombia held in October 2019 its first large-scale green energy auction, awarding 1.3GW to solar and wind applications. A ‘reliability charge’ auction earlier in 2019 also saw PV bidders pick up 238MW of capacity.

Colombia’s government has since removed logistical barriers to help 14 projects that are being developed on the back of those auctions to import solar and wind equipment through the country’s ports. The government said the measure will speed up commissioning and allow developers to choose from more port locations.

The Ministry of Mines and Energy said this week that the creation of 6,000 jobs as a result of these projects being constructed illustrates that “renewable energy will be fundamental to drive the sustainable reactivation that the country needs”.

Data from Colombia’s energy planning unit UPME published earlier this year show the country has a solar pipeline of nearly 9.5GW, following a surge in project proposals in 2019. That figure is more than half the 18.3GW across all energy sources, including hydro (4.4GW), wind (2.5GW) and thermal power (1.9GW). It is expected that solar and wind will make up 12% of the country’s energy mix by 2022.

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