The delays in the delivery of transmission projects have put the power supply service in Colombia on alert. Only 3 projects will be completed this year to alleviate the high demand for electricity in the country. The delays exceed 5 years and some even up to 10. The El Niño phenomenon, with droughts and increased temperatures, has increased the demand for electricity, especially on the coast.
The alert was issued by the energy operator company XM, which declared an emergency in some substations. The company attributes it to the combination of increased demand and delays in regional transmission projects, which have pushed the networks to their maximum capacity.
Status of transmission projects
According to data from the Mining Energy Planning Unit (UPME), there are currently 9 system projects awarded and in execution. Some of these were expected to be in service this year, but the delivery dates have been modified.
The agency responsible for the control of generation, interconnection, and transmission, the National Dispatch Center (CND), explained that some of the infrastructures have been delayed for years. “In La Guajira, Cesar, and Magdalena, there are some very important ones. La Loma-La Jagua and La Loma-El Paso are expected to be completed by October of this year. However, they were originally required for 2018. The projects are there, but the problem is that they are very delayed,” said Jaime Zapata, manager of the CND.
Other projects are in the same situation. This is the case of the Chivor II substation and its associated lines that serve Cundinamarca. This project has accumulated a delay of 10 years.
Another case that is also announced as complex is the Carreto substation, which is expected to be operational by 2027. Zapata explained that the project has not yet been awarded.
The delays are significant and are the main risk factor in being able to meet the growing demand. “Currently, we have 16 projects in progress through public tenders. Of these, 11 correspond to the national system, and 5 to the regional system. In addition to these, there are 3 expansion projects under development,” emphasized the UPME spokesperson.
Only 3 projects are scheduled to be delivered this year: La Loma, Atlántico, and La Marina. The Guatapurí substation in Valledupar and the Chinú-Toluviejo line are expected to be completed in 2024.
The case of the Caribbean Coast
The exceptional climate, with high temperatures and drought, experienced this year, is causing a more acute problem on the Caribbean Coast. The company Afinia, which serves the departments of Bolivar, Sucre, Córdoba, and Cesar, has announced that scheduled service interruptions are due to the “historical neglect of the region.”
After years of conflict, the disappearance of Electricaribe in 2020 led to two new companies for this coastal region: Aire and Afinia. The perception of most users is that the system has not improved during this time. According to Javier Lastra, manager of Afinia, this is because “for decades, the development of projects that are now affecting consumers has been neglected.”
The most affected areas by the unattended demand schedules are the northern part of Bolívar, the southern part of Cesar, and the southern part of Córdoba.
Medium and long-term solutions
According to experts, the service is not at risk in the short term. However, the only fundamental solution is to accelerate the planned projects. According to Afinia’s manager, the company is seeking solutions. Lastra indicated that they are even carrying out works on the Toluviejo substation. The objective is to carry out expansions and improvements to meet the demand, considering the El Niño incidents and tourism. During vacation times, the significant increase in demand requires a proper response.
However, for Lastra and Zapata, the medium and long-term remedy is for the delayed projects to become operational.