Colombia issues environment license for 400-MW El Quimbo

Colombia's environment ministry has issued an environmental license to the 400-MW El Quimbo hydroelectric project, allowing work to begin this year on the project on Colombia's Magdalena River.

Colombia President Alvaro Uribe announced the award, declaring the license was issued under the most stringent environmental and social protection measures.

“It is a strict license that not only considers the environmental impacts associated with the development of the activity, but also the social and economic impacts that the project generates,” said Minister Carlos Costa of the Ministerio de Ambiente, Vivienda y Dessarollo Territorial.

Upon operation, expected in 2015, El Quimbo is to generate 2,216 gigawatt-hours annually.

Developer Generadora y Comercializadora de Energia (Emgesa) said in December 2008 it plans to invest US$900 million in the project. (HydroWorld 12/10/08) Egemsa, a subsidiary of Spanish utility Endesa, said it would spend US$700 million in actual construction of the hydro project and another US$200 million for two substations to deliver its power.

The environment ministry said Emgesa must replant more than 20,000 hectares of forest land, establish a program to protect water supplies, and compensate residents affected by the construction work as part of its permit.

El Quimbo is the first private sector hydro project to be built in Colombia, under a new government program. Uribe said the program gives the developer the benefit of the project zone, then a power contract for stability, and a right to a charge for reliability.

In September 2008, the national government condemned the land for the project, declaring the land to be of public utility and in the public interest. The government certified the project area, near municipalities of Garzon, Gigante, El Agrado, and Altamira in Huila Department, does not include indigenous or minority communities that might be displaced by the project.

Colombia's Comision de Regulacion de Energia y Gas (CREG) authorized purchase of power from El Quimbo in June 2008. Emgesa is to receive a 20-year power contract priced at US$14 per megawatt-hour.

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