The crisis caused by the unavailability of 80% of the energy produced by the El Guavio hydroelectric power plant brought the role of these generators in the country's energy matrix to the center of the debate. According to XM data, there are currently more than 90 hydroelectric power plants that dispatch energy to the National Interconnected System (SIN). In total, the net effective generation capacity of all these resources is 18,770 megawatts (MW). This makes them the technology with the highest participation in the country's electricity matrix. This is confirmed by the actual generation data in the SIN, which shows that between January and September 14, 84.33% of the energy was produced with renewable energy, with hydroelectric energy representing the largest proportion. Although El Guavio is the plant with the highest net effective capacity, it is not the one that has delivered the most energy this year. Data from the market administrator show that San Carlos, Isagen's power plant, has delivered 9.9% of the total energy this year. However, with the expected entry into operation of Hidroituango, this composition will change. This has a net effective capacity of 2,400 MW, which would almost double the current largest power plant. Its energy production would be about 17% of the country's total supply. Jorge Sierra, CEO of Enersin and energy consultant, explained that this is probably the last large hydro generation plant with reservoirs. "The reservoirs are going to be discarded due to the diversion of rivers that generates environmental problems that we will see over time," he explained. The expert added that thanks to the rainfall regime and the geographical characteristics of the country it has been possible to develop these projects successfully. They have also meant that the country has one of the cleanest generation matrixes in the world. However, he pointed out that it has been noted that even in a La Niña phenomenon, these power plants are no longer able to cover the entire demand, so he says that the country must migrate towards other technologies so that the difference between what is generated with clean energy and what is demanded is not covered with thermal energy, which is polluting because it uses fossil fuels and coal. Precisely, the government of President Gustavo Petro and his Minister of Mines and Energy have stated that they will seek to accelerate the energy transition process. To this end, they have indicated that special emphasis will be placed on non-conventional renewable technologies (NCRE) such as solar and wind power. In this context, hydroelectric power plants will play an important role. According to Sierra, these have the capacity to generate robustness to the electricity system, given that they generate energy constantly, unlike NCRE technologies. For this reason, their work in a framework of accelerating the energy transition will be to provide reliability to the system. "Hydroelectric plants play the role of a large battery, which contains a large amount of energy. Their job is going to be to cushion the impacts of an electricity generation that depends on particular climatic conditions," said the expert. However, new renewable energy projects should have energy storage to provide greater reliability. With this, the matrix could have a greater diversity of clean generation sources without losing the capacity to respond to demand at any time of the year.
According to the information presented by EPM, in October two turbines of Hidroituango, which will be the largest hydroelectric generation plant with reservoir in the country, will come on line. These two turbines will generate 600 megawatts, almost half of the capacity of the largest power plant currently operating. EPM's deadline for this first phase of the project to enter is November of this year, so the company is already conducting dry tests, which have had positive results. Another two turbines will enter next year and the remaining turbines will progressively enter until reaching their totality in 2025.