ColombiaOne.comColombia newsColombia Rules Out Blackout Due to El Niño Phenomenon

Colombia Rules Out Blackout Due to El Niño Phenomenon

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Colombia blackout El Niño
Colombia rules out blackout due to El Niño phenomenon – Credit: Moises Alvarez / CC BY-SA 3.0

Colombia is ruling out any blackout due to the El Niño phenomenon, which in these months is being felt acutely in the country. The drought and the increase in forest fires have put the authorities on alert. 66% of Colombia’s electricity is produced by hydroelectric plants, so rainfall is extremely important to guarantee normal energy supply.

Although the Minister of Environment, Susana Muhamad, has admitted that there is already evidence of a decrease in the level of several reservoirs and that, for this reason, the month of February will be the most critical time for the country, the Minister has denied that there will be blackouts due to the lack of rainfall. Therefore, a situation like the one experienced in Ecuador three months ago, when the neighboring country suffered the most acute phase of El Niño, with major blackouts throughout the country, is being ruled out.

National Crisis Room

Minister Muhamad announced the creation of a National Crisis Room, following a meeting to monitor the situation, chaired by the Colombian head of state, Gustavo Petro. As a result of this meeting, different measures have been announced to deal with possible emergencies, in collaboration with the regional governors.

Muhamad, after meeting with representatives of the electricity sector, reassured that, according to current projections, no risk of electricity shortage is expected. She stated that projections indicate that the El Niño phenomenon should come to an end in April, marking the beginning of the neutral phase, according to the Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (Ideam).

“This is a permanent monitoring”, clarified the minister, announcing that the energy sector has been preparing and “is ready to respond to the situation”.

The worst phase of El Niño in Colombia

The El Niño phenomenon has been hitting the region hard for months. After putting Ecuador in check last October, producing blackouts of four hours a day in the country, the worst phase has arrived in Colombia. According to official data, the effects of the phenomenon will last until April or May, so the coming months will test the preparations of the government and energy companies, which have been designing a response plan for some time.

“What we see in general is that December was influenced by tropical waves that generated rains in some sectors, some regions of the country, but already in January the convergence of the dry season with the reality of the El Niño phenomenon is strongly felt, and also the situation of high temperatures that has been persistent since September is persisting”, explained Minister Muhamad.

The situation is not new in Colombia, as the occurrence of this natural phenomenon is cyclical and increasingly strong, due to global climate change. The country still remembers the energy rationing, up to nine hours a day, and the power cuts in the early 90’s that had an enormous cost for the economy and for society.

Infrastructure delays are a threat

The Colombian Petroleum Association, the energy consumers’ group Andesco and the generators’ guild Acolgen called for measures to ensure that there are no shortages just a year ago, when it was already announced that 2023 would be a complex year in terms of climate, with higher than normal temperatures and less rainfall.

These groups warned that several delays in infrastructures mean, in the short and medium term, compromising the energy supply throughout the country. Among the delayed works are three transmission projects of Grupo Energia Bogota (the Colectora, Refuerzo Suroccidental and Sogamoso lines), in addition to the link to Enel’s Windpeshi network.

“The projects must be assured by the developers and they must be responsible for the costs they cause to the demand when they are delayed”, said the executive director of Asoenergía, Sandra Fonseca, who added that for this, the schedules must be respected.

Juan Ricardo Ortega, president of Grupo de Energia de Bogota, had already denied last October that Colombia would suffer energy supply problems. Ortega pointed out that in times of lower rainfall it is essential for thermal power plants to operate at full capacity and for this purpose gas is indispensable. In this regard, it should be recalled that 30% of Colombia’s electricity is generated by thermal power plants.

Excessive rate increase denied

For his part, the Vice Minister of Mines and Energy, Javier Campillo, also denied future energy shortages due to El Niño. Campillo also denied that “energy tariffs are going to see an excessive increase”, something that is a major cause of concern to citizens.

It should be recalled that last September 2023, the price per kilowatt-hour reached 1,025 Colombian pesos, despite the fact that the level of the reservoirs in Colombia exceeded 78%. At the end of the year, a cautious decrease began, which is forecast to continue during 2024.

Camila Orbegozo, sector analyst at Corficolombiana, explains that “we expect the disinflationary process of energy tariffs to continue in 2024, in line with the behavior of the PPI (producer price index). The expected drop would be greater in the absence of the effect of the El Niño phenomenon, which will put upward pressure on energy tariffs, moderating the total drop”.

In the specific projections, a 6.1% year-on-year drop is expected by the end of 2023 in regulated market prices, while for 2024 the projection indicates an average drop of 1.6% per year. It should be recalled that in 2022 the increase was close to 12.5% per year.

As for the non-regulated market, growth is expected to close at 3.5% per year in 2023 and in 2024 there will be a drop of 3.6%.


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