Isagén made the decision to focus 100 percent on renewable energies, a goal that is in line with the path that Colombia undertook a few years ago and that the government of President Gustavo Petro is committed to accelerating to end the high dependence on hydrocarbons. that the country currently has.
To reinforce this commitment, in December of last year Isagén sold Termocentro, the only thermal power plant it had in its portfolio and which represented approximately 10 percent of its generation capacity.
This plant has been operating for 26 years in the township of Puerto Olaya, municipality of Cimitarra, Santander. It runs on gas, has a capacity of 272 megawatts, and for more than two decades has been key in providing the energy backup that the country has required.
“The divestment in Termocentro is a consequence of the strategic decision to focus and commit to the energy transition – which is key in the medium term, not only for the company but for the country – and to continue growing in renewable energy, our great bet. We believe in the country, we believe there are great opportunities and we are going to continue investing”, assured the president of Isagén, Camilo Marulanda.
After carrying out this operation, Isagén’s installed capacity totals close to 3,000 megawatts, which are distributed among 14 hydroelectric plants, two wind farms in La Guajira (Guajira I and Wesp 01) and two solar farms (Bosques de los Llanos 4 and 5). in the municipality of Puerto Gaitán, Meta.
These last four non-conventional renewable energy projects began operating in 2022 and are already delivering energy to the national system.
In addition, the construction of another solar megaproject called Sabanalarga, which will have a capacity of 100 megawatts and will be located in the department of Atlántico, is in progress. The idea is to put it into commercial operation at the end of this year, after an investment of close to 500,000 million pesos.
Going forward, the company’s plan is to continue growing, especially in solar and wind plants. The planes are to add at least 1,000 megawatts of additional capacity over the next five years. To achieve this, Isagén contemplates the possibility of acquiring projects from other developers or building them on its own.
Although Camilo Marulanda affirmed that, quite possibly, due to the issue of environmental and social permits and the opportunities that are glimpsed, This growth will come largely from new solar farmsdue to «the speed with which we can develop these projects and the opportunities we are seeing.»
These initiatives are still in the evaluation phase, therefore, it has not yet been determined in which areas of the country they would be located exactly, but what has been calculated is the investment. It is estimated that it would be approximately, between 500 and 600 million dollars, which would be financed with the cash flow of the company or with credits.
the shadow of the dollar
Betting on renewable energy in Colombia has become somewhat complicated – not only for Isagén but for all companies – as a result of the devaluation of the Colombian peso against the dollar.
And it is that, more or less, 65 percent of the costs of a solar project are in dollars because the panels and the inverters are imported from other countries.
Therefore, as the price of the dollar increases, the costs to build solar farms also increase. and ends up impacting profitability. Those who are building wind farms or plan to do so have to face these same affectations.
In La Guajira, where the wind speed is twice the world average, companies such as EDP Renovables, Celsia, Enel Green Power and AES Colombia are developing another 14 projects.
To counteract the cost overruns that may arise, Camilo Marulanda said that when a project is sanctioned, Isagén usually makes exchange hedges for future payments in dollars required, and in this way the volatility of the exchange rate in Colombia is controlled.
However, this does not eliminate the fact that it is more expensive to develop a project today than it was a year ago. Well, in January 2022 this currency was around 3,900 pesos and today it is at 4,631.64 pesos, after starting the year at around 4,800 pesos.
Isagén’s growth plans also contemplate new hydroelectric plants. For this reason, it plans to build two plants in the department of Antioquia, which already have an environmental license.as well as the connection lines that will allow this energy to be injected into the national grid.
One is called Palagua, it will have a capacity of 100 megawatts and will be near the municipality of San Carlos, and the other is Bartolomé –with 50 megawatts–, which will be built in the mediations of the municipality of Puerto Berrío.
But the company is waiting for the National Government to announce that it will hold a new load auction for reliability to define whether to start the construction of these projects or not.
If the auction does not take place this year, as planned, Isagén would enter to carry out a «deeper evaluation of the returns and the conditions to develop them,» said Camilo Marulanda. The investment that could be allocated to these hydroelectric plants would be between 450 and 500 million dollars.
But the good news is that the Ministry of Mines and Energy has already established that this year there will be a Reliability charge.
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