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Medellin-based electric power giant EPM on June 11 unveiled a COP$4 trillion (US$1.06 billion) capital investment program for its power distribution subsidiaries in six Colombian departments (states).

The investments “seek to contribute to the improvement of service quality, minimizing the number of interruptions and their duration,” according to EPM.

“For this, infrastructure projects are being carried out with the aim of extending networks to expand coverage, modernize and expand substations to improve reliability, and acquisition of new technologies that allow optimizing the system, timely delivery of information and greater automation,” according to the company.

The investments will cover all its domestic power-distribution subsidiaries in Antioquia, Norte de Santander, Santander, Quindio, Caldas and Risaralda departments, including: CENS (Centrales Eléctricas del Norte de Santander), ESSA (Electrificadora de Santander), CHEC (Central Hidroeléctrica de Caldas), EDEQ (Empresa de Energía del Quindío) and EPM (Empresas Publicas de Medellin).

EPM group already invested COP$742 billion (US$197 million) in Colombia power infrastructure in 2019, the company noted. For 2020, projected investments total COP$1.3 trillion (US$355 million), while for the 2020-2024 term, investments will total COP$4 trillion (US$1.06 billion).

Beyond just infrastructure, investment areas also include “research and innovation projects aimed at the incorporation and adoption of new information technologies; measurement and intelligent networks; [and] multipurpose LED lighting,” according to the company.

Here are the investment totals by subsidiary:

CENS: This subsidiary has already invested COP$481 billion (US$127 million) for efficiency and reliability projects over the past four years – an all-time record, according to EPM.

As a result, “the ‘SAIDI’ indicator (which measures duration of service failures) has decreased by 35% between 2016 and 2019, and the SAIFI indicator (which measures the frequency of failures) has decreased by 16%, [both] achieving better-than-national long-term targets,” according to EPM.

Besides extending power service into more rural areas and low-income neighborhoods, CENS now offers payment plans “tailored to the needs of users and their ability to pay, such as ‘Rechargeable Energy’ and ‘Pay to Your Needs,’” according to EPM.

ESSA: This subsidiary launched a COP$770 billion (US$204 million) investment plan in 2016 “in order to increase coverage and improve the quality of energy service for its customers and users in Santander,” according to EPM.

“These resources have been key to illuminating the lives of 23,424 rural families who did not have the energy service in their homes,” according to EPM.

“Thus, a coverage of the energy service in the rural area of 96.4% and a total urban-rural coverage of 98.85% were achieved, making Santander one of the departments in Colombia with the greatest coverage of electric-energy service and consequently greater opportunities for development and well-being.

“Through expansion and improvement projects of networks and electrical substations, it was possible to improve by 40% the time that customers go without energy service (SAIDI indicator) and to reduce by 30% the number of interruptions in the energy service of users (SAIFI indicator),” the company added.

EDEQ: Since 2010, EDEQ has invested approximately COP$100 billion (US$26.5 million) in the Quindío electricity system, boosting service quality. “The frequency indicator (SAIFI) has improved by 65%; while the availability indicator (SAIDI) imrpvoed by 20%,” according to EPM.

“For the next five years, EDEQ will invest more than COP$90 billion [US$24 million] in projects including the [power dispatch] control center, expansion and replacement of networks and substations, and management of energy losses, all to achieve greater efficiencies and better quality,” according to EPM.

CHEC: So far in 2020, power-supply interruption frequencies and durations have been reduced substantially, “which shows the results of investments aimed at improving the quality of the energy service,” according to EPM.

“Through electrification plans and the expansion of infrastructure, coverage of 99.91% was achieved in the departments of Caldas and Risaralda,” the company added.

“During 2018 and 2019, CHEC infrastructure planning studies were carried out for the municipalities of Dosquebradas and Dorada, as well as the study of the expansion of the Regional Transmission System. As a result, 25 projects are being formulated today, which would come into operation in the next six years.”

For 2020, CHEC plans to invest COP$45 billion (US$12 million) and then another COP$244 billion (US$65 million) in the 2021-2024 period, according to the company.

EPM: The principal subsidiary of Grupo EPM “has as its fundamental purpose the provision of electric power service with universal coverage and the best possible quality” in Medellin and throughout Antioquia. Following that promise, at the end of 2019 EPM’s service coverage in urban areas was 100% and in rural areas 97.26%.

EPM offers pioneering payment solutions including “Prepaid Energy,” “Housing Enablement” and the “Pay for Your Needs” program, “all of which make it possible to access service and stay permanently connected” even for relatively low-income households.

For the period 2020-2024, EPM’s total investments in Medellin and Antioquia will be approximately COP$1.7 trillion [US$450 million], featuring “expansion projects and replacement of electrical infrastructure that will make it possible to connect more customers and modernize the infrastructure; our ‘safety project’ that will guarantee the continuity of service under safe conditions for both workers and contractors and for the community; the ‘quality project’ that aims to improve the quality of electricity service in all territories (SAIDI-SAIFI indicators), and the change of public lighting to more-efficient LED technology,” according to the company.


Medellin-based electric power giant EPM announced June 8 that more than 1,000 construction workers at its US$5 billion, 2.4-gigawatt “Hidroituango” hydroelectric project in Antioquia will undergo staggered, voluntary isolation in June and July to avoid possible Covid-19 outbreaks.

To date, EPM reports that it has detected 283 cases of Covid-19 infections among Hidroituango workers, with 21 already recovered. The other 262 workers “have mild symptoms or are asymptomatic. Two of them have been provided hospital care for reasons not associated with Covid-19 and their health condition is stable,” according to EPM.

Beyond those 283 already-isolated workers, another 350 workers are “voluntarily preparing to spend the next few days in individual and voluntary isolation, in order to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus in their family group or in the communities to which they will return,” according to EPM.

“This process is carried out both in the Villa Luz camp of the CCCI [construction] consortium, and in the Tacuí-Cuni camp of EPM, following the advice of the Epidemiological Surveillance System and the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Antioquia and in coordination with the Secretariat of Health of Antioquia,” according to the company.

These volunteers will spend at least seven days in preventive isolation, “after which time the Coronavirus test (Covid-19) will be applied. If the result is negative, then they will receive a certificate that they are not carriers of the virus, and they will be able to return to their communities,” according to EPM.

However, any workers found positive for Covid-19 will be transferred to Medellín for medically supervised recovery, the company added.

 


Deposed Antioquia Governor Aníbal Gaviria announced in a June 8 press conference that Colombia Attorney General Francisco Barbosa Delgado committed a grievous legal error in charging Gaviria with corruption over a 2005 highway contract -- and likewise went way overboard in removing him from office and putting him under house arrest.

Gaviria also revealed that he will appeal the detention order to Colombia’s Supreme Court.

Rather than pointing fingers at anyone over some supposed “smokescreen” or “political plot” as suggested by some demagogues, conspiracy-mongers and certain left-wing journalists, Gaviria instead said he has no indication whatever of any political plot.

Rather, Colombia Attorney General Barbosa and an assistant prosecutor handling the case simply made wrong legal judgments about the disputed highway contract, he said.

Gaviria also noted that the Attorney General has a questionable track record on numerous preventive detention orders, as lawsuits totaling some COP$2 trillion (US$555 million) have been filed against the Attorney General over allegedly wrongful detentions.

Gaviria also stated that he had received messages from numerous jurists and legal experts around Colombia indicating that the Attorney General simply has misunderstood Colombian law regarding alleged irregularities in the “Troncal de La Paz” highway-and-bridge contract executed 15 years ago in Bajo Cauca, Antioquia.

Notably, Gaviria praised Colombia President Ivan Duque for what he said was the correct naming of Antioquia Government Secretary Luis Fernando Suárez Vélez as Acting Governor in the meantime. President Duque personally telephoned Gaviria to advise him of the naming of Suárez following the Attorney General action.

“I have known and worked with Aníbal Gaviria for years,” President Duque announced via his Twitter account. “I have profound respect, recognition and appreciation for him. I offer my solidarity with him and his family,” President Duque said.

Similar praise came from political parties of all stripes – not only the Liberal Party to which Gaviria belongs, but also from notable Centro Democratico leaders, including former President Alvaro Uribe, former Antioquia governors of various political parties, Medellin mayors, departmental and city elected officials, major commercial/industrial trade associations, and  “thousands of persons and institutions in Colombia,” Gaviria noted.

Not one of the four alleged “contract irregularities” cited by the Attorney General in fact violated any Colombian law, Gaviria said. Even though Gaviria didn’t personally sign any of those allegedly flawed contracts, the Infrastructure Secretary and other officials in Gaviria's former government who actually signed those contracts didn’t violate any law, do anything wrong or engage in any corruption, Gaviria stated.

Nor were there any cost-overruns, technical defects or losses in the project executions, he added.

“I am confident in the Colombia justice system, despite errors of some officials” in the Attorney General’s office, he stated. “I will prove my innocence and also that of other officials” in his former Infrastructure Secretariat who signed the contracts, he added.

 


Colombia Attorney General Francisco Barbosa Delgado announced June 5 in a press conference that Antioquia Governor Aníbal Gaviria has been charged with alleged corrupt management of a highway construction contract during his first term as governor between 2004 and 2007.

“The evidentiary elements indicate irregular payment of advances and other anomalies in the process of contracting and construction of ‘La Troncal de La Paz’ [the Peace Highway] during the governor’s first term between 2004 and 2007,” according to the Attorney General.

Following a Supreme Court order, Gaviria has been removed from office and put under arrest, according to the Attorney General.

“The decision was communicated earlier today to the President of the Republic [Ivan Duque] to comply with the legal mandate to suspend [Gaviria’s governorship]. In this sense, the head of state [President Duque] must complete the necessary procedures to guarantee the administrative functioning of the department of Antioquia,” according to the Attorney General

The Attorney General alleges that Gaviria “incurred in contract crimes without compliance with legal requirements in homogeneous competition" as well as "embezzlement by appropriation in favor of third parties."

“[I]n the contract for the improvement and paving of the Troncal de la Paz -- La Cruzada - Caucasia section -- signed in 2005 for a value of COP$41.66 billion [US$11.7 million], an advance payment of 25% was initially agreed and then it was extended to 29%, which meant almost COP$1.5 billion [US$420,000] more for the contractor. This amendment ignored essential legal requirements, such as planning and transparency principles.

“In addition, it was found that the aforementioned advance was paid without the approval of a contractual guarantee that would ensure the correct destination of the money. This omission caused the contractor to invest more than COP$10 billion [US$2.8 million] in machinery and equipment.

“The investigation revealed that two additions were made to the initial contract, which would also have failed to comply with the essential principles of public procurement. One represented about COP$4 billion [US$1.1 million] for adjustments of a specific sector of the same [highway]; the other, by means of a contract addition, was carried out four days before the end of the governor’s term and contemplated the construction of an access road to the municipality of El Bagre, Antioquia.

“This last matter, which committed more than COP$16 billion [US$4.5 million], had to be the subject of a new selection process and could not be part of the original contract,” according to the Attorney General.

Since Governor Gaviria “was the legal representative of the Department [and] the authorizing officer of the expenditure, even if he had delegated the function of contracting, he had to exercise the oversight, coordination and control of the delegation,” according to the Attorney General.

Governor Gaviria flatly denied the charges -- citing evidence he already delivered to the Supreme Court -- and accused his political competitors of cooking-up the prosecution as an act of political revenge.

As required by Colombian law, President Duque on June 5 appointed a temporary governor (Antioquia General Secretary Luis Fernando Suárez Vélez) until the coalition of parties that backed Governor Gaviria in the last election can name his replacement.

Writing in his Twitter account, President Duque added that "I respect institutionality [of the Court order requring Gaviria to step-down]. I have known and worked with Dr. Aníbal Gaviria for years; I have deep respect, appreciation and recognition for him. My solidarity with him and his family."


Colombia’s Health Ministry reported that as of June 2, 31,833 people had contracted Coronavirus nationally since tracking began four months ago -- including 1,009 deaths and 11,142 recoveries so far.

Bogota is by far the worst at 10,743 cases including 267 deaths, followed by Atlantico (4,550 cases); Cali/Valle del Cauca (3,714); Bolivar (3,364); Amazonas (1,852); Antioquia (1,200); Meta (981); and Cundinamarca (983).

Despite being Colombia’s second-largest city, Medellin itself has had only 557 of Antioquia’s 1,200 total cases – 245 of which are active, with 309 recovered.

What’s more, Medellin has had only three Covid-19 deaths – none in the last six weeks, and the best rate in all Colombia per 1 million inhabitants -- compared to Bogota’s national-worst 267 deaths.

Even more remarkable, nearly all Medellin Covid-19 patients are recovering at home, with only seven people in hospital -- four of which are in intensive care units (ICUs), the other three in regular care. Technology innovations in telemedicine are aiding the home-care efforts.

As a result, Medellin has plenty of spare ICU capacity for future “critical” Covid-19 cases, capacity of which Medellin is expanding in any case at Clinica La 80 and elsewhere.

Simultaneously, Medellin leads all Colombia in orderly, organized and relatively biosafe economic recovery -- pioneering in the reopening of many industries and even shopping centers.

How does Medellin do it?

In a June 3 posting to his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/DQuinteroCalle/) Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero largely credits the “MedellínMeCuida” computerized data-capture and analysis program for relative success in thwarting Covid-19.

“'#MedellínMeCuida' is perhaps the most effective strategy against Covid-19 in all of Latin America,” according to Quintero.

“However, despite the fact that many believe that it is an application, it really is a revolutionary way to rethink state intervention.

“It was born in principle with the name of ‘Equipos Territoriales de Atención Integral Familiar’ [Territorial Teams for Comprehensive Family Care] in our government programs, chosen [by the Medellin City Council] with the highest vote in the history of the city and endorsed in the Development Plan, allocating about 25% of the [family-care] budget.

“In itself, ‘MedellínMeCuida’ is a system that is based on providing comprehensive care to families in the territories -- especially health, psychological and social care, the fight against malnutrition and access to education in the territories.

“After the pandemic started, ‘MedellínMeCuida’ faced a test of its capacity and efficiency. We developed in-house, with developers from the Mayor’s Office, a platform that allowed us transparency on who received support, and measured [Covid-19 response] effectiveness. [As a result], Medellín was the first city [in Colombia] to bring aid to a territory.

“’MedellínMeCuida’ was integrated with the '123' [emergency call-line platform], the SEM (Sistema de Emergencias Médicas Medellín y Antioquia [Emergency Rescue Service]), Sisben [Sistema de Identificación de Potenciales Beneficiarios de Programas Sociales – Colombia's welfare-eligibility classification system] and others. We use advanced analytics, geo-referencing, and data-science strategies that have helped reduce uncertainty in decision making.

“’MedellínMeCuida’ also proved its effectiveness during the process of economic reopenings. Companies registered their employees, uploaded bioprotocols and were able to open much faster. It improves our ability to fence-around local Covid outbreaks, and increases efficiency in the delivery of aid to vulnerable populations.

“Thanks to ‘#MedellínMeCuida’ and ‘#MedellínMeCuidaEmpresas’ we learned who still needed help and who did not. For example: Last week we gave aid to 100,000 families who we were certain had no income because they have not recovered their jobs.

“Then we integrated ‘#MedellínMeCuida’ with the Metro [public transit] system and we were able to know the percentage of [transit] occupation in real time with detail by economic sector, allowing agreements to be reached with various [industrial/commercial] sectors to adjust their work schedules [to avoid overcrowding].

“Information is a powerful tool. There are terrible cases in the world where information has been used for evil purposes. For this reason, we take very seriously the way information is obtained and managed,” he added.


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About Medellin Herald

Medellin Herald is a locally produced, English-language news and advisory service uniquely focused upon a more-mature audience of visitors, investors, conference and trade-show attendees, property buyers, expats, retirees, volunteers and nature lovers.

U.S. native Roberto Peckham, who founded Medellin Herald in 2015, has been residing in metro Medellin since 2005 and has traveled regularly and extensively throughout Colombia since 1981.

Medellin Herald welcomes your editorial contributions, comments and story-idea suggestions. Send us a message using the "contact" section.

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