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    Could a blackout occur in Colombia due to the El Niño Phenomenon?

    May 22, 2023 - CE Noticias Financieras


      Every time the El Niño phenomenon threatens to make its presence felt in the different regions of the country, alerts are triggered by the imminent drought. On this occasion, forecasts indicate that the season may be of high intensity.

      In view of this, some experts have predicted that the country's energy needs could be affected. They have even compared the current situation with the rationing and subsequent blackout that occurred in the early 1990s.

      At that time, the difficulties that arose, the lack of power generation infrastructure and the lack of solutions by the government of President César Gaviria caused Bogotá, even though it was the capital, to witness blackouts lasting up to 9 hours.

      In the remote territories of the center of the country, the absence of energy lasted up to 18 hours. Experts assured that the realities of both periods are not so different from each other, so it is essential to avoid this scenario.

      Amylkar Acosta Medina, former Minister of Mines and Energy between 2013 and 2014, explained that at that time "the country depended in more than 80% of the hydroelectric plants for its energy generation", in addition to the fact that that dry season "was prolonged in time and with a high intensity", as is expected for this year.

      In addition to this, energy dependence on hydroelectric plants varies from year to year, but remains high. There are more than 150 hydroelectric plants in the country that generate about 70% of the energy consumed by Colombians. The other 30% is produced by the 61 thermal plants.

      However, dependency figures vary and could be much higher: as of September 2022, 84% of the country's energy had been produced by hydroelectric plants the previous year, according to Sinergox, the entity that centralizes public information on the Wholesale Energy Market (MEM) and the operation of the National Interconnected System (SIN).

      The executive director of Asoenergía, Sandra Fonseca, stated that "there are delays in generation and transmission projects (of energy), while demand grows at an accelerated pace. Therefore, we do not have a large reserve capacity in terms of energy and this makes us vulnerable".

      The truth is that, according to forecasts, the El Niño phenomenon is expected to arrive between June and July. However, its possible extension is uncertain.

      The experts added that the current reserves contained in the country's reservoirs make possible the supply for an estimated period of four months, that is to say, if the dry season is not only extreme, but extends for a period equal to or longer than this, the country could be exposed to a deficit.

      In spite of all this panorama, the Government headed by President Gustavo Petro has assured that there is no risk of blackouts in the country, nor of energy rationing.

      "No number today (May 19, 2023) indicates that there will be blackouts. There is a 90% probability that there will be an El Niño Phenomenon, but up to this moment the probabilities are weak or moderate", said the President.

      The President assured that the electricity companies are in charge of carrying out works to prevent possible blackouts, this with more than $ 68 billion they have in savings.

      On the other hand, he also tried to dispel concerns about a possible increase in the rates of energy services due to the same drought.

      "In the Ministry we are developing a mechanism, inviting the generators to sell with long-term contracts to these marketers, so that the marketer does not have to go to the stock market to buy a very high energy, but with a previously negotiated contract, the impact that this may have on users is mitigated a little," said Irene Vélez, Minister of Mines and Energy.


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