That’s why he advocates for policies that focus on demand instead of supply – much like the Climate Action package recently approved in the US, which incentives homeowners, companies and states to switch to renewables. In Colombia, this means tackling transport, the country’s largest consumer of fossil fuels, says Jessica Arias, a policy researcher at Transforma, an energy transition research center in Colombia. To do this, country must boost electric public transport, shift public investment from roads to railways, and support EV ownership, according to a policy brief co-authored by Arias.
But Yanguas-Parra thinks moving away from the extraction of oil and gas is as necessary as electrifying internally and sees both processes as deeply intertwined. “[W]e either need to reduce exports so we can use more oil or drastically reduce internal use so we can export the same amount,” she says.
To replace gas and oil by 2050, the country will need to produce about five times more electricity than it does today, Arias’ team found. With an electric grid already relatively green (hydropower dams create about 70% of electricity in the country), reaching 100% renewable electricity grid is possible by 2030, according to a recent paper co-authored by Yanguas-Parra. However, the paper says policymakers need to move firmly towards this and ensure the energy transition gains “social licensing”.
In fact, a lack of social approval could become the biggest roadblock for renewable energies, says Yanguas-Parra. If the government focuses on building megaprojects in areas where there is already conflict over land use, “social conflict will totally slow down the progress”, she adds.
In Colombia, the wind power industry is already under scrutiny: Wayúu indigenous communities in La Guajira have denounced human rights violations and a lack of transparency from arriving projects. Meanwhile, in the small town of La Loma, near the now-closed mines in La Jagua, the renewable giant Enel is building Colombia’s largest solar park, but local communities have said they were not informed about the project nor of any way they will benefit from it. “We agree with an energy transition. We know the world and the time requires it,” Moreno, who is one of Prodeco’s union leaders, said. “But right now, the energy transition is only for multinational companies.”
Enel and SER Colombia, an industry body which brings together several companies developing renewable energy projects in La Guajira, did not respond to a request for comment.
If things like this keep happening, “society is just not going to accept the energy transition”, says Yanguas Parra.
Read More: How Colombia plans to keep its fossil fuels in the ground