Colombia has the third largest installed hydropower capacity in South America, at 11,726 MW. The sector makes up 70 per cent of national installed energy capacity and, in 2017, produced 86 per cent of national electricity generation, exceeding the 70 per cent average generation of the past four years with continuous droughts and above the 79 per cent recorded in 2012.
Other renewable energies have minimal representation in Colombia’s energy market. Gas is the second most used resource, representing 9 per cent of generation in 2017.
Due to hydropower energy, Colombia has positioned itself at the forefront of clean and sustainable energy systems worldwide, and is advancing towards its target to reduce greenhouse gases emissions by 20 per cent by 2030.
The World Economic Forum ranks Colombia 8th in the Global Energy Architecture Performance Index (EAPI). The index measures countries’ ability to deliver secure, affordable and sustainable energy. Colombia is the first non-European country in the top ten.
Following a ministerial meeting in September 2017, Colombia’s Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development and China’s Ministry of Water Resources announced a Memorandum of Understanding to cooperate and advance shared interests in hydraulic infrastructures and flood protection.
The National Authority for Environmental Licenses (ANLA), under the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, has published new terms of reference for the preparation of environmental impact studies for the construction and operation of hydropower plants. To begin construction, hydropower projects over 100 MW need to obtain an environmental licence from the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, while those under 100 MW need to obtain a licence from the Regional Autonomous Corporation.
In January 2017, ANLA denied, for the second time, the environmental licence to the 960 MW Cañafisto hydropower project. Isagen is already undertaking feasibility studies for an alternative project that would be a smaller version of the original one with 380 MW of installed capacity.
During 2017, Colombia increased hydropower installed capacity by 100 MW, with a focus on smaller capacity hydropower projects.
The 19.9-MW El Eden, 19.9-MW El Molino and 10-MW San Matias projects were commissioned in the first quarter of the year, while Luzma 1 and Luzma 2, each with 19.6 MW, entered into operation in late 2017.
The 2,400 MW Ituango hydropower project, in the Cauca River, will become the largest hydropower plant in Colombia when it is completed. With a consortium led by Empresas Públicas de Medellín (EPM), the project’s first unit is expected to enter into operation by December 2018.
In total, 125 hydropower projects are in the pre-feasibility stage according to the Energy and Mining Planning Unit (UPME), under the Ministry of Energy and Mines. These would add about 5,600 MW to existing installed capacity. By comparison, over 300 solar and wind projects are also registered representing 2,775 MW of additional installed capacity.
This country profile is featured in the 2018 Hydropower Status Report. Download the full report here.
This profile was last updated in June 2018.