Energy and Power
Supporting a cost-effective energy transition for Colombia.
How can smart technologies support Colombia's energy transition?
Sun-filled days, alongside fierce winds, give Colombia the potential to become a renewable energy powerhouse. It places the country in a solid position to increase its capacity for renewable energy as it looks to decarbonise its energy system.
However, national grids need to be transformed when it comes to decarbonising a national energy system. Since renewable energy naturally fluctuates, government and grid operators need to decouple themselves from the idea that energy demand can only be met by ramping up its generation. Instead, they can balance the grid by managing energy demand.
For Colombia's energy transition to succeed, the Ministry of Mines and Energy realised it needed to transition to a smart grid. One that is truly flexible and allows large proportions of renewable energy to flow into the national energy system.
Unlocking flexibility within Colombia's energy system with smart grid technologies
At the Carbon Trust, we're strong advocates for demand-side flexibility, which reduces the need for expensive grid infrastructure. Given our experience in scaling demand-side flexibility across the UK, we were in a solid position to find a cost-effective path for Colombia's energy transition.
Decarbonising a country's power system requires a systemic approach. By engaging with policymakers and local energy providers, we tackled all aspects of the challenge that would bring the country one step closer to a clean energy system. This led to three critical actions, as we:
Characterising Colombia's energy demand
When deploying smart grid technologies, such as smart meters, TOU tariffs must be acknowledged. Should end-users be charged per hour, per timeframe or in real-time? Inevitably, there cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach to TOU tariffs. What works for a commercial client in Bogota won't suit residential end-users in Barranquilla.
By assessing data from 120,000 smart meters, we could paint a bigger picture of Colombia's energy demand. It showed that tailoring tariffs to end-users' needs would not only save energy but also slash customers' energy costs.
Driving a green energy transition that is both fair and cost-effective
This partnership instilled new confidence in the country's decarbonisation efforts, as Colombia increases its climate ambitions. In 2020, the country re-submitted its NDC. In the latest version, the government aims to narrow the gap between energy use across peak and off-peak hours. This will support the country's ambition to build a more resilient energy infrastructure.
By challenging the idea that flexibility can only come from energy generation, Colombia is one step closer to cleaning its national grid.
Active support for lower-income households
A smart grid rollout strategy allows Colombia to create a just energy transition which adds value for all. So far, the country has supported lower-income households by offering dedicated energy subsidies. While helpful, this solution isn't sustainable over time. Our analysis revealed this funding could be used to install smart technologies across lower-income households and pilot benefits that can be replicated countrywide. It would empower users to manage their energy consumption and take advantage of periods with low energy demand. This offers another method to help alleviate energy poverty.
The study showed how a smart grid rollout could support Colombia's goal of a decarbonised and reliable energy system. We can now share these insights and tools with policymakers, making future decisions on deploying smart technologies much easier.
We want to thank UK PACT (Partnering for Accelerated Climate Transitions) for funding this project, which enabled us to complete the project and make a case for smart grids. Similarly, we'd like to acknowledge the support from our partners, Imperial College London and Universidad Nacional de Colombia, who supported this research at various stages, including the data collection and modelling.
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