Colombia clinches $70 mln development funds for clean power

NEW YORK, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Colombia secured $70 million to prime its power grid for more renewable sources like wind and solar on Thursday, from a fund that aims to attract further cash for developing countries’ bids to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The windfall is the latest from the Climate Investment Funds(CIF) which was set up by big country donors in 2008 and has since put money into projects aimed at reducing carbon emissions in countries that seek help to do so.

Developing economies account for two-thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions and it is harder for private investors to find viable projects in those countries than in mature markets, according to the International Monetary Fund.

CIF said it hoped the $70 million would attract a further $280 million from public development banks and carbon finance markets.

Unlocking the funding, CIF endorsed a national plan that includes reinforcing the grid to cope with the intermittency of wind and solar; and building clean power facilities in areas not connected to a network.

Colombia is a major coal producer but generates most of its own electricity from hydroelectric dams. These are prized as a carbon-free power source, but reliant on vast amounts of water.

Drought conditions brought on by the Pacific Ocean warming phenomenon known as El Nino have previously caused severe water shortages and are expected to return this year.

“The electric system has faced critical situations during drought periods caused by El Niño events which jeopardized the continuity of service several times over the last 30 years,” the renewable energy investment plan read.

“In those cases, thermoelectric plants must assume a greater generation role despite their higher costs and greater pollution.”

Leftist President Gustavo Petro promised to prioritise renewables, including through majority state-run energy company Ecopetrol, when he took office last year.

Solar panels accounted for just 0.8% of Colombia’s power capacity as of January 2022, but CIF said the country generated record levels of solar power in 2021, and that an “energy transformation is already under way in Colombia”. (Reporting by Isla Binnie in New York Editing by Matthew Lewis)