Colombia faces lower hydro generation with little renewables to help

Author: U.S. Army Corps of Engine. License: Creative Commons, Attribution 2.0 Generic.

May 20 (Renewables Now) - Colombia has hydro reservoir levels for power generation at 32.31% and the country will have to start impounding water to prepare the electricity system for the summer period from December 2020 to March 2021, the Colombian energy ministry said on Friday.

The level of the reservoirs of the national interconnected system (SIN) has touched a historic low due to an unusual decrease in rainfall, which the hydro-dependent country has been facing since August 2019.

Furthermore, Colombia’s Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies, known as Ideam, forecasts lower water contributions in June and July and warns of uncertainty in the second half of the year and the summer season 2020-2021.

With hydro levels low and with what little non-traditional renewables are connected to the SIN grid, Colombia is making do with thermal power plants as backup.

SIN operator XM Compania de Expertos en Mercados said last week its analysis showed the system would have enough resources to meet electricity demand for up to two years. If the hydro levels do not improve in this period, Colombia will rely on plants that have been awarded firm energy obligations to supply electricity.

Firm energy obligations, or OEFs for their Spanish acronym, are granted in reliability charge auctions, an auction model designed to enable the country to have a steady supply of power during critical seasons, such as the El Nino, and periods of electricity shortages.

Last March, the reliability charge auction for the first time awarded OEFs to wind and solar projects alongside existing and new traditional type of plants.

But, Colombia will not count on these projects this year since their OEFs are in force from December 1, 2022, to November 30, 2023. Also, renewables awarded off-take contracts in the long-term auction will skip this summer as they have to start generating power on January 1, 2022.

XM said the prolonged periods of low hydro may require thermal power generation to be above last year’s average. This in turn would call for an adequate management of resources and sectoral coordination to respond to situations of water scarcity, the grid operator added.

The awarded renewables, both long-term and OEFs, have connection points already mapped out for them for when they have to begin injecting power. So, looking at 2030, XM estimates the system will be able to reliably meet demand once the OEF plants start generating and the planned expansion of the transmission system concludes.

At present, Colombia will have to juggle 11 GW of hydro with 5.1 GW of thermal power capacity and 1 GW of smaller plants.

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Sladjana has significant experience as a Spain-focused business news reporter and is now diving deeper into the global renewable energy industry. She is the person to seek if you need information about Latin American renewables and the Spanish market.

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