Green Economy

A Mighty Wind

Colombia has created an ambitious plan it hopes will make it a green economy leader in the region by 2030.

Colombia is hard at work transforming itself into a regional leader in all things green. The country has already made much progress; green energy projects have been growing, and the market for green and environmentally friendly tourism has been exploding. While there is yet much work to do—Colombia has long heavily relied on and exported petroleum—the country has started taking important steps to achieve its goal.

Colombia recently launched the Misión de Crecimiento Verde, a comprehensive and ambitious plan to overhaul the economy into a green one, protecting the country’s natural landscape while building economic activity around its natural biodiversity. The country is already well on its way. For several years, Colombia has scored high on the Global Green Economy Index, a measurement of countries’ performance related to environmental initiatives. In 2016, the country ranked 18th out of 80, placing it ahead of several Latin American countries as well as some Western European ones.
The Misión de Crecimiento Verde has three pillars: increasing the number of available jobs in the green workforce, building a bio-economy that will increase exports, and efficiently using water, energy, and other important resources. Working toward these goals, the government’s recent tax reform included a carbon tax, which it hopes will begin to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, former President Juan Manuel Santos announced plans to double the size of protected areas throughout the country, which will ultimately come to include 26 million ha. The expansion of protected areas will also produce a nature sanctuary and two new national parks.
In energy, the country is making important progress, despite several obstacles. In September 2017, the country completed the Celsia Solar Yumbo project, the first solar plant in the country. The 9.8-MW project, located in the Valle del Cauca region in the southwest, contains 35,000 photovoltaic modules manufactured by the Chinese JinkoSolar. In early 2018, the same company, Celsia, started construction on its second PV project, located in Santa Rosa de Lima in the north of Colombia. The project, only in its early phases, is expected to contain 32,000 PV modules and contribute to the country’s and region’s goal of reaching 250MW of solar power.
In terms of wind energy, Colombia has among the best prospects throughout all of Latin America. Some regions off the coast of Colombia’s north, such as La Guajira Department, see winds as high as 10mps, rivaled only by some regions in Patagonia. Studies have put the full potential of wind energy in La Guajira alone at 21GW, generating enough power to cover the country’s demands nearly two times.
Despite the great potential, Colombia faces a few obstacles in developing its wind energy sector. The recent devaluation of the currency has made it more difficult to purchase specialized foreign equipment. The price of wind power is constantly changing, with costs constantly moving from as low as USD1,600 per KW up to USD2,400 per KW.
Colombia currently has one operating win farm, Jepirachi, located in La Guajira. The force behind the 19.5-MW plant, Empresas Publicas de Medellí­n, is currently carrying out early stage studies that may see a new windfarm built with a capacity 11 times greater than the current one.
TBY recently met with Ernesto Pérez Moles, the General Manager of SOLAR GREEN, part of Solaer, a Spain-based company leading solar projects around the world. Moles described working on solar projects in the country, where the industry is just getting started. Colombia has a market of 45 million inhabitants with a purely hydroelectric energy matrix; it thus requires more diverse energy sources,” he said. “There will be more production in 2018, though the regulations prevent better results in the Colombian market. The environmental laws are also tough for autonomous organizations. There are new companies entering the market, especially from Europe such as Italian and Spanish companies, and the market has become interesting and attractive.”