Energy profile: Colombia
Fuel mix (fossil fuels vs renewables)
Hydro power accounts for more than two thirds of Colombia's electrical generation and installed capacity. Over the next decade, Colombia plans to expand its emphasis on renewables, raising installed capacity of other renewable sources from 2% in 2018 to 21% by 2030, with the largest growth in onshore wind energy. The environmental permitting agency of Colombia, ANLA, approved the first permit for a large wind farm in 2018. Simultaneously, Colombia anticipates growth in the coal sector to 2.4 GW of installed capacity by 2030.
Greenhouse gas emissions targets
In December 2020, President Duque updated Colombia's NDC (Nationally Determined Contribution) to reflect a 51% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (compared to their original reduction pledge). In order to meet their greenhouse gas emissions targets by 2030, Colombia will need to enact policies to speed up the transition away from coal and fracking as well as preventing deforestation which accounts for 16.68% of total emissions in the country. Long term, Colombia aims to be net-zero by 2050.
Government energy agencies & other key players
National energy ministry
The MME (Ministerio de Minas y Energía), formed in 1974, oversees Colombia's mining industry, mineral industry, and electricity sector. UPME (Unidad de Planeación Minero Energética) is the branch of the MME responsible for planning development of the country's energy and mineral resources.
ANLA (Autoridad Nacional de Licencias Ambientales) is the national permitting agency for projects based on their environmental effects. An environmental permit must be obtained from both ANLA and the regional environmental agency.
SSPD (La Superintendencia de Servicios Públicos Domiciliarios) oversees public utility companies in Colombia.
ISA (Interconexión Eléctrica SA) is Colombia's main electrical transmission company. The electricity sector is monitored and administered by CND (Centro Nacional de Despacho), ASIC (Administrador del Sistema de Intercambios Comerciales), and LAC (Liquidador y Administrador de Cuentas).
National oil company
Majority state-owned Ecopetrol is Colombia's leading oil company and one of the four largest oil and gas companies in Latin America, alongside Mexico's Pemex, Brazil's Petrobras, and Venezuela's PDVSA; the Colombian government holds 88.49% of Ecopetrol's shares.
Leading energy companies
Leading electricity companies in Colombia include EMGESA, Empresas Públicas de Medellín, and ISAGEN.
Energy sector employment data
Colombia has Latin America's second largest workforce in the renewable energy sector, just behind Brazil. Of the approximately 272,000 jobs in the renewable sector in 2019, 212,000 were in liquid biofuels, 36,600 in hydropower, 18,600 in solid biomass, 4,000 in wind power, and approximately 1,000 in solar photovoltaic.
The Colombian electricity sector is comprised of both the National Interconnected System (SIN) and non-interconnected zones. The SIN includes generation plants, the interconnection network, regional transmission, interregional transmission, and 27,916 kilometers of distribution networks. Electricity services in the non-interconnected zones (ZNI) are provided by independent small-scale systems.
Hydropower is the main power source in Colombia, accounting for 77.97% of installed capacity in 2019, followed by thermal power stations (14.62%), cogeneration (1.22%), and wind (0.1%).
The three-year construction delay at the Hidroituango hydroelectric plant created concerns about near-term energy shortages in Colombia, leading CREG to establish incentives for projects which could bridge the gap until the opening of Hidroituango, which is expected to cover more than 15% of Colombia's energy needs.
IPSE (Instituto de Planificación y Promoción de Soluciones Energéticas) is an affiliate of the MME which focuses on meeting the electricity demands of rural, underserved areas in the non-interconnected zones of Colombia.
During 2019, per capita electricity usage in Colombia was 1,300 Kwh.
Coal in Colombia
Colombia has the second largest reserves of coal in South America (after Brazil), but is the top producer of coal, mostly concentrated in the Guajira region. Colombia produces more than 80% of the coal in Latin America. The federal government owns all hydrocarbon reserves while private companies are responsible for coal production. Between 1995 and 2020, Drummond Ltd. exported 500 million tons of coal from Colombia.
As of 2018, approximately 10% of Colombia's energy supply came from coal.
Colombia is a notable coal exporter, shipping much of its coal abroad. As of 2019, Colombia ranked fifth globally in coal exports, behind Australia, Indonesia, Russia, and the United States; key markets for Colombian coal include the Netherlands, Turkey, the United States, Chile, Spain, Portugal, the United Kingdom and Brazil. As of 2021, the country holds a 5.24% share of the global coal market. MME has focused on increasing exports to Asian countries in coming years, with China and India being the key anticipated markets for Colombian coal as Europe invests more heavily in renewable energies.
Oil & Natural Gas in Colombia
Colombia is the 19th largest oil producer in the world. Following the impacts of COVID-19 and OPEC disagreements in 2020, Colombia has been trying to recover the nearly 50% drop in oil and gas sector investments. MME hopes to return Colombian production to 2019 levels. Barrancabermeja refinery and the Reficar Cartagena refinery make up almost all domestic fuel production.
As of 2018, just under 40% of Colombia's energy supply came from oil, with an additional 25% from natural gas.
Imports & source countries
Proposed new sources & projects
Modernization projects for refineries and pipelines were the priority for Colombia between 2010-2020.
Cenit, a subsidiary of Ecopetrol, controls 80% of crude oil pipelines infrastructure in Colombia (6,300 miles), refined product pipelines are almost exclusively controlled by Cenit.
Transportadora de Gas Internacional (TGI), a subsidiary of Grupo Energia de Bogotá, operates the majority of natural gas pipelines.
Renewable Energy in Colombia
Policy support at the federal level and meeting the rising consumer demand for renewables in Colombia will contribute to a positive growth trend between 2020-2025. Due to Colombia's heavy reliance on hydroelectricity (69% of the renewable energy) it is highly vulnerable to hydrology scenarios such as the El Niño phenomenon, necessitating the use of thermal energy as a backup. Accordingly, greenhouse gas emissions are particularly high during El Niño events. Wind energy is likely to see a significant trend in growth by 2025. La Guajira is slated to attract wind investment due to class seven winds while Orinoco and San Andrés are attractors for solar development. Biomass cogeneration plants could also have a strong foothold in Colombia due to forestry and agricultural waste.
Iron & Steel in Colombia
The Iron and steel sector is overseen by the Comité Colombiano de Productores de Acero, a member of the ANDI (La Asociación Nacional de Empresarios de Colombia). Ferronickel exportation from Colombia began in 1985, following the mining of the ore deposit Cerro Matoso. In 2018 the gross production value of the iron and steel industry was 7.76 trillion Colombian pesos. During 2020 exports of Colombian iron and steel fell by 17.1%. Colombian steel producers focus on long steels (80% of which is rebar) and expect to see growth due to infrastructure projects. The five main steel producers in Colombia are: Acerías Paz del Río (Brazilian), Gerdau Diaco (Brazilian), Sidenal, Sidoc, and Ternium Colombia.
The ecosystems and biodiversity of Colombia are directly threatened by extractive energy activities. The reinjection of production water from the oil and gas industry has led to seismic activity in Colombia. The wetlands in Colombia are at particularly high risk from energy related pollution.
Water pollution by oil & gas operations negatively impacts indigenous communities. Communities threatened by the environmental effects of energy are impoverished, lack adequate health services, and struggle to have their voices heard at the national policy level. Labor, social, and environmental activists in Colombia have been repressed or disappeared by large companies. More than 2,000 indigenous environmental activists were killed or injured since 2016 for speaking out about mineral extraction and the dangers of fracking. In 2020, more than half of all the activist deaths in the world took place in Colombia. Colombian activists continue to advocate for the environment and to push bills prohibiting the exploration and exploitation of new reservoirs.
Lack of accountability in the Colombian energy sector allows for problematic outcomes. The gaseous nature of Colombia's coal deposits have contributed to numerous workplace accidents and deaths. Poor ventilation, worker training, and inadequate regulation makes it likely that methane related accidents will continue.
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