Unique opportunities for innovation
of network capacity unlocked
in customer savings
Empresas Públicas de Medellín (EPM) launched a pilot project and a second initiative incorporating SmartValve in its Aburrá Valley Expansion Plan. Together, these efforts unlock 400 MW of capacity.
Grupo Energía Bogotá (GEB) alleviated inter-regional congestion and unlocked 252 MW of new capacity for generation on its network.
Smart Wires is supporting ISA Transelca on two major projects. The first project is in the Guajira-Cesar-Magdalena (GCM) region and immediately releases 500 MW for wind interconnection in the north of the country — five years earlier than traditional infrastructure. The second project is in the Atlantico region and enables an additional 300 MW of renewables to reliably connect to the grid.
The use of distributed FACTS devices (such as SmartValve) is incentivized in Colombia’s Transmission-Generation Expansion Plan 2020-2034, published by the national planning agency Unidad de Planeacion Minero Energetica (UPME). Given the value of this technology to cost-effectively strengthen and optimize the existing grid, the national plan includes multiple distributed FACTS projects over the coming years.
Colombia faces familiar energy challenges — as well as unique opportunities for innovation.
The country has significant hydropower resources, but heat periods — exacerbated by climate change — are creating obstacles to reliable electricity supply. In addition, the best wind and solar sources are located in remote parts of the country with few transmission lines.
Thankfully, several of the nation’s largest utilities have recognized the value of Smart Wires’ technology — both for solving short-term capacity challenges and for optimizing expanded transmission capacity in the long term.
These operators have shared their perspectives through the Transmission Planning Advisory Committee, a national utilities’ forum. The Committee, in turn, has advised national authorities about the technical breakthroughs represented by Smart Wires’ technology.
When Empresas Públicas de Medellín (EPM) conducted a pilot using SmartValves, for example, the national regulator took notice. The venture’s success motivated a new mindset for planning and regulatory processes in Colombia; as a result, these processes now incentivize technologies that optimize the existing grid.
Regulation deep dive
The national planner has established a self-titled Disruptive Planning paradigm that prioritizes deploying FACTSs (Flexible Alternating Current Transmission Systems) and optimizing existing infrastructure over nearly all other options. Utilities are strongly encouraged to invest in asset upgrades — both with direct financial rewards, and with a right of first refusal process that allows other utilities to bid on a project if the asset owner elects not to do so. For the state, utilities, and consumers, improving the existing network offers significant economic and environmental advantages compared with system expansion.
Today, Smart Wires counts several of the country’s biggest utilities — including ISA, GEB and EPM — as customers, with significant additional projects planned for the coming years.
Smart Wires has earned the confidence of industry and government in Colombia because our technology is modular, scalable, reusable, inexpensive and quick to install in existing substations to address urgent system needs. As soon as SmartValves are in place, utilities get more firm generation to market and save customers money on their energy bills – a key concern in a country where the government is part-owner of many major utilities.
For utilities facing difficult choices, SmartValves also create options: they can be used to upgrade existing infrastructure and play a part in new transmission projects, and the technology’s modularity means that operators can repurpose their SmartValves or add more as their networks expand. In other words, SmartValves are both an important short-term solution for Colombian utilities and a crucial part of the country’s energy future.