Green Energy and Smart Grids Driving Growth in Colombia

Published on Monday, 26 January 2015

Power plants that harness natural resources and innovative network infrastructures that provide quality services and bring energy to remote areas are the key to Colombia's growth. Enel has been operating in the South American country for nearly 20 years through its local subsidiaries, offering a technological expertise and vision that encourages sustainable development.

The Latin American country is experiencing an economic and social renaissance and is looking to overcome the internal conflicts that for decades have held back its development. Today, Colombia's GDP is growing at an average annual rate of four to five percent – the highest rate in the region – and the country is looking positively towards a future that combines economy with sustainability. Its aim is to preserve an extraordinary natural heritage in which 10 percent of the planet's biodiversity lives either in the sea (it is the only South American state that borders both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea), the Amazon, savannahs, the Andes or volcanoes.

The Enel Group is the largest private power company in Colombia. The Group operates both in the production sector, with an installed capacity of 3.041 gigawatts (21.5 percent of the market) through its subsidiaries Emgesa (traditional and hydropower generation) and Enel Green Power (renewable energy), and the distribution and sales sector, with its subsidiaries Codensa and Empresa de Energía de Cundinamarca (EEC) managing 65,000 kilometres of low and medium voltage networks and around three million customers in Bogotá and the surrounding area (25 percent of the market).

The Group is developing projects that aim to ensure stable energy provision and the development of infrastructure that respects both the environment and local communities. Enel Green Power is developing wind and solar plants in several areas that are not yet connected to the national grid, such as La Guajira, Santander, and Cesar. The development of hydropower is focusing on small projects in the central and eastern parts of the country, while a 400-megawatt power plant is in the process of building built in El Quimbo at the basin of the Magdalena River in the south-western region of Huila. The work will require an investment of over $1 billion, will aid security of supply and encourage progress in the area while also safeguarding its biodiversity, with major initiatives aimed at the protection of the reservoir, vegetation recovery and wildlife conservation.
One of the country's priorities is also the construction of new power transmission infrastructure that links northern departments with the national network and the construction of a line connecting Colombia to Panama (300MW of capacity northward and 200MW in the opposite direction).

Through Codensa, Enel is also working on the construction of two new primary substations that are worth over $100 million in Bogota and will support the increased demand for electricity, guaranteeing service to nearly 10 million residents in the capital.

Another strategic element is the modernisation of the remote control system of Colombia's distribution grid, through the installation of technologies that improve the detection of outages, reducing the time required to solve failures and optimise the quality of service.

The smart meter also features in Colombia's future. In 2013 Codensa launched a pilot project in Bogotá to test the implementation of smart meters. Once the pilot phase is completed, the project will continue with the installation of 66,000 smart meters to improve the quality of service, with an additional 300,000 being installed for customers consuming more than 300 kilowatt-hours a month.