That’s why he’s advocating for policies that focus on demand rather than supply – much like the recently approved Climate Action package in the US, which urges homeowners, businesses and states to switch to energy renewable. In Colombia, that means tackling transportation, the country’s biggest consumer of fossil fuels, says Jessica Arias, policy researcher at Transforma, an energy transition research center in Colombia. To do this, the country must boost electric public transport, shift public investment from roads to railroads and support electric vehicle ownership, according to a policy brief co-authored by Arias.
But Yanguas-Parra thinks moving away from oil and gas extraction is as necessary as it is to electrify internally and sees the two processes as deeply linked. “[W]We either need to reduce exports so we can use more oil, or drastically reduce internal consumption so we can export the same amount,” she says.
To replace gas and oil by 2050, the country will need to generate around five times more electricity than it does today, the Arias team found. With an already relatively green electricity grid (hydroelectric dams create around 70% of the country’s electricity), achieving a 100% renewable electricity grid is possible by 2030, according to a recent article co-authored by Yanguas-Parra. However, the document says that policy makers must move firmly in this direction and ensure that the energy transition is given “social license”.
In fact, a lack of social approval could become the biggest obstacle for renewable energy, says Yanguas-Parra. If the government focuses on building megaprojects in areas where there are already conflicts over land use, “social conflicts will totally slow progress,” she adds.
In Colombia, the wind industry is already under scrutiny: the Wayúu indigenous communities of La Guajira have denounced human rights violations and a lack of transparency in the projects that are coming. Meanwhile, in the small town of La Loma, near the now closed La Jagua mines, renewable energy giant Enel is building Colombia’s largest solar park, but local communities said they were not informed of the project or how they would benefit from it. From this. “We agree with an energy transition. We know the world and the time demands it,” said Moreno, who is one of Prodeco’s union leaders. “But for now, the energy transition is only for multinationals.”
Enel and SER Colombia, an industry body that brings together several companies developing renewable energy projects in La Guajira, did not respond to a request for comment.
If such things continue to happen, “society simply will not accept the energy transition”, says Yanguas Parra.