The study region: Chocó
Chocó is one of the poorest departments in Colombia, and faces pressing social, environmental and economic issues. In 2015, 66% of the population was living/lived in poverty, up from 63% in 2013. Electricity access in Chocó is among the lowest in the country: 20% of households lack access, and 30% have partial access. Access to modern energy services is crucial for social and economic development, and renewable energy can improve livelihoods and income.
- The Institutional Collaboration aimed to build new capacity at the Technological University of Chocó, particularly the Centre for Renewable Energy in Andagoya, in order to guarantee the development of sustainable energy in rural and fishing communities, provide additional academic training, promote its long-term financial stability, and future regional expansion.
- The project aimed to achieve these goals through knowledge transfer, design of business and strategic plans, generation and analysis of primary data, revision of policy and government programmes, multiple methods, modelling, social and economic approaches, and exchange and training of students.
Fishing and Rural Communities in the Pacific Coast
The collaboration worked with rural and fishing communities in the municipalities of Bahía Solano and San Juan. It supported and strengthened the design and effectiveness of renewable energy (RE) projects, ensuring positive impacts on livelihoods. This additional RE generation capacity improved the quantity and reliability of electricity supply providing for household, community and productive uses. This lead to:
- Direct benefits to hundreds of local residents in specific communities via the provision of solar, micro-hydro, wind, biomass and a mini-grid energy systems
- Provision of refrigeration, lighting in schools, and battery charging services for fishing communities leading to reduction of food waste, enhanced supply chains and access to healthcare
The research collaboration focused on energy at the micro, i.e., community level in Chocó, for productive and community uses. Situated within the regional and national context, the collaboration also examined the opportunities for replication to other Departments in the Pacific area, and regions in Colombia facing similar challenges.
In order to ensure the collaboration’s longevity, we anticipated a focus on further evaluation of the outcomes and impacts on a few RE pilot and new projects in Chocó, in particular on community needs such as education, health and refrigeration through identification of further sources of funding during the project period.
The researcher and student exchanges also helped to consolidate working relationships amongst the project partners; future efforts will focus on continuing with new postgraduate and researcher exchanges between UK and Colombian partners.
Colombia’s Renewable Energy Law 1715
This project also investigates how successful Colombia’s Renewable Energy Law 1715 has been in encouraging the development of renewable energy technologies, both on and off the grid. Law 1715’s framework was announced in May 2014. The timing of the Law coincides with favourable conditions for the deployment of renewable energy devices however and so despite its minimalist incentives it is expected that Colombia will see an increase in renewable penetration in the grid areas.
This legal framework offers instruments for the promotion and use of non-conventional energy sources, as well as promotion of investment, research and development in clean technologies.
Methods and modelling
Research methods and modelling are part of the mutual transfer of knowledge which this project aims to achieve. This area has been addressed at the Training Workshop held in November 2016 and will continue throughout the duration of the project.
Research and analytical capacity of the team in Colombia will be enhanced in different ways through modelling training and application focussing on LEAP, system dynamics, optimization, and SURE-DSS models.
Policy and sustainability
The collaboration builds on existing links with government – at multiple levels – to ensure the outputs feed into future policy development. Municipal governments and national policy makers are interested in the development of Chocó, and funds have been allocated to promote development in the region. Colombia has seen a reduction in the percentage of the population living in poverty (from 47% in 2011 to 29% in 2015), due to economic growth and the 2011 Poverty Reduction Strategy. However, around 1.5 million people in Colombia lack access to electricity, and many more have only limited access, and yet the Poverty Reduction Strategy does not take into account access to modern energy services. The project aims to achieve the sustainability of increasing energy to poor regions to improve people livelihoods.