Colombia’s current installed electricity capacity is 16,488 MW, with around 70 per cent of this total provided by hydropower. Colombia’s mining and power planning unit (UPME) has recently estimated that a further 56 GW of hydropower capacity could be developed in new run-of-river schemes.
The country’s hydropower resources are concentrated in the Magdalena River basin. More than 60 per cent of the country’s installed hydropower capacity is situated there, along with the majority of planned developments.
The hydropower sector has been very active in Colombia over recent years, benefitting from a well-established regulatory framework and firm policy support for low-carbon and renewable energy technologies.
In its intended nationally determined contribution (INDC) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Colombia committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent with respect to the projected business-as-usual scenario by 2030.
Further hydropower development will be driven by the rising demand for electricity in the country. There is also considerable interest in developing new water infrastructure for other uses, including navigation, irrigation and flood management. Electricity demand increased by 4.4 per cent in 2014, with total consumption reaching 63,571 GWh in that year.
Increased regional integration will also provide an impetus for continued hydropower development. Colombia is participating in the Andean Electrical Interconnection System (SINEA) project, along with Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Chile. This initiative seeks to create a shared energy market between these counties, while securing energy supply in the region and promoting the increased penetration of renewable technologies.
A 300 MW capacity interconnection between Colombia and Ecuador is expected to be complete by 2018. In addition to the SINEA project, another transmission line linking Colombia and Panama is also slated for completion by 2018.
Colombia commissioned a considerable amount of new hydropower capacity in 2015. Seven new stations totalling 599 MW commenced operations in the last year, including the Carlos Lleras Restrepo (78 MW), San Miguel (44 MW), Bajo Tuluá (20 MW), Suba (2.6 MW) and Usaquen (1.6 MW) projects.
The 400 MW El Quimbo station was completed in July. El Quimbo represents the first private sector hydropower project to be built in Colombia and it is expected to generate approximately 2.2 TWh per year, further enhancing the security and stability of domestic power supply. This project, which is owned by Emgesa, a subsidiary of the Enel Group, will also generate power for export to neighbouring countries.
Both turbines at the 55 MW Cucuana facility, a run-of-river scheme located in the Tolima department, were commissioned in 2015, in August and November respectively. This project, which is certified under the UN Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), is expected to produce 250 million kWh of electricity each year. It is owned by the operator Empresa de Energia del Pacifico S.A. (EPSA).
According to UPME, more large-scale capacity installations are slated for the next five years, including the 2,400 MW Ituango project, which is expected to come online between 2018 and 2020.
You can find all our latest country profiles and regional overviews in the 2017 Hydropower Status Report, which you can download here.
This profile was last updated in May 2016.