EPM Inks 11-Months Contract Extension for Partial Completion of Hidroituango
Medellin-based electric power giant EPM announced this afternoon (December 16) that it just finalized an agreement with the existing, principal constructors of the US$5 billion Hidroituango hydroelectric plant — hence enabling continued construction through November 2022.
The deal includes an eight-months extension seen required to finish current installations that would guarantee start-up of the first power turbine in July 2022, and then start-up of a second turbine in November 2022 — plus three months for training a new set of contractors expected during a hand-over period.
The 11-months contract extension deal comes on the heels of a December 10 agreement between Colombia’s Controller-General, EPM and Hidroituango project insurer Mapfre, which guarantees that Mapfre will pay US$983.4 million (COP$3.84 trillion) supposedly to cover Hidroituango damages, or else 90% of the projected cost to finish construction.
The other 10% supposedly would be covered by parallel policies with three lesser insurers to the project, including Medellin-based insurance giant Sura.
Still unresolved is a parallel COP$9.9 trillion (US$2.4 billion) damages lawsuit EPM earlier brought separately against the Hidroituango construction contractors, designers and consultants, a claim that — if eventually upheld by some future court ruling — would be cut by about half because of the Mapfre and other insurer payments.
According to Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero (who chairs the EPM board of directors) that “other half” of damages claims – totaling roughly US$1 billion – supposedly would cover insurance deductibles and the cost of nearly four years of lost power sales, all caused by the 2018 collapse of a diversion tunnel at Hidroituango, setting-back completion by four years.
In a December 16 press release following EPM’s announcement of the Hidroituango contract extension, the “CCC Ituango Consortium” – including the three major contractors (Camargo Correa, Conconcreto and Coninsa Ramon H) – confirmed that they are almost certain to be excluded from the upcoming public bidding round to replace the existing EPM construction contract.
However, thanks to the Mapfre insurance payment, the three contractors wouldn’t be barred from participating in any other future local or national Colombian construction contracts, according to the CCC Ituango statement.
“The agreement between the CCC Ituango Consortium and EPM was achieved after the evaluation of the mitigation of the risks derived from the fiscal responsibility ruling issued by the Controller-General, which according to the statements of the Controller General of the Republic Carlos Felipe Córdoba, on the occasion of the agreement between EPM and Mapfre Seguros Generales de Colombia for the payment of compensation under the ‘All Risk Construction policy,’ at the moment the [insurance payment] resources enter [EPM’s coffers], any disability, any sanction, any effect due to rulings of the Comptroller General of the Republic” are nullified.
“We are grateful for the participation of President Iván Duque and of all the people who made possible the payment commitment of the insurers for the loss that occurred in the project.
“EPM’s decision to continue with the CCC Ituango Consortium [for the next 11 months] is a sign of confidence in our execution capacity and the quality of our services, and with this extension we reaffirm our commitment to execute as many works as possible in the defined period by EPM, so that the project objectives can be achieved,” according to the CCC Ituango Consortium statement.
However, thanks to certain questionable public accusations and political demagoguery employed by Medellin Mayor Quintero (and to a lesser extent by Controller-General Carlos Felipe Cordoba) in describing supposed construction/design errors, supposed “substandard materials” and non-specific allegations of “corruption,” the current contractors have suffered damage to their professional reputations – and Colombia has become a question-mark for foreign investors viewing the total lack of legal due-process in the prosecution and persecution against the contractors (at least to date), all despite what the contractors claim was the result of an undiscovered geological fault alongside the collapsed diversion tunnel — and not any errors, substandard materials nor “corruption.”
Meanwhile, EPM, its electricity ratepayers, Medellin’s citizens (the actual owners of EPM) and the Colombian and international business sectors now can only hope that whatever future Hidroituango replacement contractors somehow (perhaps miraculously) will get up-to-speed inside the designated three-months hand-over period and complete the Hidroituango project on-time (by 2025, when all eight power turbines are supposed to be running), on-budget and on-quality.
But if Hidroituango isn’t well on-its-way to completion by 2025, then Medellin Mayor Quintero – who will have already left office by then (his term ends January 1, 2024) — could see his political legacy sour thanks to his frenzied push to terminate the existing contractors, a decision that now puts Hidroituango’s timely completion at risk.