FISE 2015 Electric Power Conference Surpasses Expectations
The just-concluded Feria Internacional del Sector Eléctrico (FISE) electric-power conference November 25-27 in Medellin surpassed expectations as more than 16,000 delegates attended a show that included 145 technical presentations, three expert panels featuring leading power-company executives, nearly 300 exhibitors and more than US$67 million in signed business deals.
In all, FISE 2015 hosted delegates from 49 countries, among which were 91 from Mexico, 74 from Brazil, 62 from the United States, 47 from Perú, 46 from Ecuador and 40 from Spain, according to the organizers.
Citing information from Colombia's trade-promotion agency Procolombia, FISE officials revealed that the most-sought-after products from vendors at FISE this year included transformers, poles, medium-voltage networks, cables, conductors and area lighting systems.
Numerous technology innovations also took the spotlight at the FISE, including novel systems to prevent power thefts and/or downstream power surges; detection-and-control systems; and discussions on the impact of upcoming power-industry revolutions including electric vehicles, energy storage, distributed generation and consumer-generated power (the latter usually involving solar photovoltaics).
Some 76% of the buyers at this year's FISE show were first-time attendees, according to the organizers. Not including the final day (Friday) of the show, buyers and sellers had already realized 425 business meetings, 30 of which were impromptu, according to FISE.
This sixth version of FISE – which started in 2006 – is unique among Colombia’s power-industry conferences in that it attracts all the major players in all four sectors: generation, transmission, distribution and commercialization, as FISE director Elena Rico Villegas explained to Medellin Herald.
The 2015 version of FISE – titled “New Ways of Generating Added Value in the Power Industry” -- occupied more than 88% of the total pavilion space at Plaza Mayor, Rico said.
FISE is the result of a collaboration between the Medellin Chamber of Commerce (CCM) for Antioquia, the Medellin city government, the Center for Research and Development of Electricity Sector Technology (CIDET), and the Electric Energy Cluster.
Medellin’s Antioquia department has for decades been the single-greatest power generation source for Colombia, mainly via massive hydroelectric projects.
A new, 2.2-gigawatt hydroelectric dam (dubbed “Hydroituango") principally owned by Medellin-based EPM and the Antioquia government is under construction and expected to start generating power in 2018. It will provide fully 13% of Colombia's power capacity when completed in 2021/2022.
Among the 19 co-sponsors for this year’s FISE include EPM (Colombia’s biggest single power-industry player, participating in all four sectors); ISA (Colombia’s national power transmission provider); Isagen (the Colombian government-owned power generator); global power technology giants Siemens, Eaton and ABB; and numerous technology, equipment, systems-control, consulting and engineering firms.
Colombia Power Sector Growing
Compared to the situation when an El Niño drought caused a national power crisis in 1992, Colombia’s power sector – still dominated by hydroelectric generation-- today has vastly improved.
The 2007 version of El Niño was even worse than that of 1992, yet Colombia didn’t have a single instance of power rationing in 2007, Rico told us.
Meanwhile, Colombia’s power-delivery reliability and power-generation environmental footprint now rank among the world’s best, according to a 2014 global study by the World Energy Council (WEC).
In that study, Colombia ranked fifth in the world for energy security, fourth in the world for environmental stability and 16th in the world when including all factors including service reliability and coverage, according to WEC.
Thanks to power-sector deregulation/re-regulation, massive private and public investments in generation, transmission and distribution occurred since the power crisis of 1992.
As a result, fully 97% of Colombia’s population is now connected to the national grid. But power still is lacking in some remote areas, which has spurred several innovative, off-grid power-generation projects, Rico explained.
In addition to presentations on several “green” and off-grid advanced technologies that could help bring power to remote areas, FISE 2015 included panel discussions on “smart-grid” development, electric vehicles, and home-to-grid “prosumidor” initiatives.
While some industrial consumers have complained that Colombian power tariffs are relatively expensive compared to other countries in Latin America, that comparison is flawed when considering the poor reliability of power delivery in countries including Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina, according to a recent joint study by Andeg (National Association of Generating Companies), Acolgen (Association of Colombian Electric Generators), Andesco (National Association of Public Service Companies) and Asocodis (Colombia Association of Electric Power Distributors).
In that study, Colombia’s average industrial power tariff (US$0.11/ per kilowatt-hour) ranked in the middle of countries around the world, with Italy (US$0.22 per kiloWatt-hour) the priciest, Germany the second-most expensive (U$0.205/kW-hr) and Ireland the third-most expensive (US$0.166/kW-hr).
The UK, Spain, Mexico, Portugal, Belgium, Holland, and France all have higher power costs than Colombia, the study shows.
In South America, Chile has cheaper power (US$0.089/kW-hr), as does Brazil (US$0.076/kW-hr) and Peru (US$0.07/kW-hr), but both Chile and Brazil suffer from power-supply problems, while Peru subsidizes the cost of natural gas to its thermoelectric plants, according to the study.
Brazil recently had to reverse a decree that slashed power costs by 20% because of subsequent power rationing, the study added.
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