Medellin’s EPM Public Utility Making Impressive Financial, Social, Environmental Progress
Medellin-based multinational utilities giant EPM on April 7 presented highlights of 2017 results including impressive growth in profitability along with expansion of water, power, garbage-collection, sewer and natural-gas services to thousands more customers in the metro area.
In a press conference, EPM general manager Jorge Londoño de la Cuesta and Medellin Mayor Federico Gutiérrez pointed-out that EPM power and garbage-collection services now cover more than 97% of Medellín residents.
Drinking-water service now reaches 95.7% of Medellin homes and businesses, while sewage connections now cover 92.25%. Piped natural gas from EPM has now grown to reach 82.75% of homes and businesses.
As for new connections, EPM added 76,741 more customers here to its electric power service last year, which now totals 2.37 million customers. Meanwhile, natural-gas hookups last year added 66,624 customers, resulting in 1.3 million total gas clients.
As for drinking water, EPM hooked-up another 41,121 new clients last year, resulting in 1.18 million total clients, while sewage hook-ups last year added 42,221 more customers, resulting in 1.15 million total clients as of year-end 2017.
As for rural electrification, EPM connected another 2,292 homes in remote areas around Antioquia last year, benefitting another 9,168 persons. Rural electrification campaigns have now hooked-up 107,156 homes in Antioquia, benefitting 444,745 residents, the company added.
‘Pay What You Can’ Expands
As for EPM’s pioneering “pay what you can” (“paga a tu medida”) program for low-income customers – enabling generous, extended payment terms – another 51,070 customers signed-up for this program last year, with 120,708 added since the program began in 2014.
Similarly, EPM’s pioneering pre-paid system for power and water services added 22,084 low-income clients last year in Antioquia, with 242,956 homes now taking advantage of this option.
Unlike some areas in Colombia (especially the Atlantic coast) where theft of power via illegal connections is rampant in low-income areas – resulting in catastrophic losses for local utilities and as a result a predictably unreliable power supply – EPM delivers reliable, high-quality, socially-conscious power and water services to all economic strata thanks to tiered rates and prepaid options.
Prepaid-power and tiered power rates – subsidizing the poorest customers, but not by 100% — along with rational power use (prepaid for real needs, not wasted frivolously) helps ensure that EPM meets triple goals of ensuring financial soundness, quality service delivery and real help for the most vulnerable in society.
While EPM’s soon-to-launch “Hidroituango” hydroelectric plant in Antioquia – now more than 80% complete — will inundate thousands of hectares of environmentally sensitive areas upriver of the new dam, EPM last year in compensation added 22,575 hectares of protected areas in the hydrogeographic basins of Porce (Río Grande, Río Aburrá and Porce-Alto Nechí); Nare (La Fe and Río Negro-Nare); Cauca (areas near the Hidroituango dam); and Chinchiná, the latter in the zone of influence of EPM’s “Aguas Regionales en Urabá” affiliate in the Uraba region of Antioquia.
On the air-pollution-reduction front, EPM added 10 new electric vehicle (EV) recharging stations in the Medellin metro area last year, part of a planned long-term switch aiming to replace thousands of high-polluting diesel and gasoline vehicles with zero-emission EVs. Part of this plan includes replacing 1,500 conventional combustión-engine taxis with EV taxis over the next three years, the company added.
EPM also is working with Renting Colombia and Localiza Rent a Car to enable public renting of EVs, and it’s also working with the Medellin “Metro” public transit agency to expand the conversion of more conventional transit buses and motorcycles to electric power.
The company also recently added two more “micro” hydroelectric plants in Antioquia last year (La Vuelta and La Herradura), avoiding emissions of 72,908 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). Meanwhile, the recently installed “Los Cururos” solar-power station in Antioquia has achieved another 266,814 tonnes reduction of CO2e, according to the company.
As for water pollution reduction, EPM’s soon-to-open “Aguas Claras” sewage-treatment plant in Bello, Antioquia – now more than 91% complete — will slash raw-sewage dumping into the Rio Medellin by more than 120 tonnes per day, the company added.
Similarly, in the San Nicolas valley region just east of Medellin, EPM is launching a COP$19.6 billion (US$7 million) project to expand clean-water and sewage-treatment systems for customers in metro Rionegro, El Retiro and rural areas of Envigado.
On a related front, EPM recently acquired 100% of the stock of Empresas Públicas de Rionegro (E.P. Rio), enabling improved and expanded water and sewage services for 30,308 customers in the urban area of Rionegro, the company added.