HydroNews - The Americas

Hydropower and national cop commitments


Colombia was a very active participant during 2022’s COP26 in Glasgow and committed to very ambitious and specific targets. By 2030, it must reduce its atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 51%.

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Total population:

51.87 million

GDP per capita:

6,658 USD


Total installed hydro capacity:

12,563 MW

Hydropower capacity added:

618 MW

Hydro capacity under construction:

1,200 MW

Share of generation from hydropower:


Hydro generation per year:

~ 65,700 GWh

Technically feasible hydro generation potential:

200,000 GWh

All figures concern 2022;
Sources: TheWorldBank, IMF, IHA, Hydropower & Dams World Atlas 2023 

Renewable energy represented more than 75% of electricity generation and more than 25% of total energy consumed in 2021 and 2022. According to the 2023 Energy Policy Review, these impressive figures are supported especially by the role of hydroelectricity.

To that end, Colombia is expanding its hydroelectric capacity with the third and fourth units of HidroItuango adding 600 MW to the installed capacity. Upon completion of HidroItuango with eight units in operation, Colombia's hydroelectric capacity will be increased by 2.4 GW (8 × 300 MW). However, Colombia's hydroelectricity has a low storage capacity and extreme weather events (droughts or rains) put the availability of hydro-electricity to the test.

While Colombia has substantial wind and solar resources a barrier for development is the lack of transmission capacity. This situation, together with the age of some generation assets, has led certain energy producers to make the decision to modernize or repower some of their hydroelectric plants. Framed within these initiatives, ANDRITZ has been developing support for these producers and has multiple reference examples executed in Colombia in recent years.

Alto Anchicayá hydropower plant


Unit hall, San Carlos hydropower station


Chivor hydroelectric plant life extension

In this project, the client built a new intake structure with ANDRITZ participating in the design, manufacturing, factory testing, assembly, and on-site testing of the equipment for the new valve chamber. This contract included four new DN 4,000 butterfly valves together with their respective drive, control units, and crane bridge.

Technological update of voltage regulators 

Through this initiative, equipment that has been in operation for nearly 15 years is uprated and modernized quickly. Such projects have a total execution timeframe that does not usually exceed 12 months. In recent years, ANDRITZ has carried out this type of modernization for at least 16 systems at several plants in Colombia. ANDRITZ is currently executing the modernization of seven further systems, the completion of which is scheduled for the first half of 2024.

Modernization of speed governors 

In these projects, modernization of the electronic governor control panels is planned sequentially, validating simultaneously the mathematical models of the governors, thus improving the operational indicators. In the Colombian market, this modernizing approach which involves quick intervention times for improving plant availability has been gaining popularity. Five unit interventions were successfully completed in 2023; contracts for the modernization of 10 additional units have already been signed in 2024; and at least 15 units are expected to be modernized in 2025 and 2026.

Major maintenance through overhaul of valves

Through works that involve spherical valves, butterfly valves, and pressure relief valves we have achieved the recovery of these safety devices. These works made it possible to return this equipment to initial operating conditions and reliability, thus re-establishing the high levels of safety required. At ANDRITZ, we estimate that the local rehabilitation of these devices will continue to be a requirement for the hydroelectric plants in operation in Colombia.

Work on this equipment requires very high levels of precision, demanding dimensional and geometric control, use of specialized equipment, and highly qualified and experienced personnel.

Guatapé and Guavio, repair of admission valves

On-site team at the supply of the new Pelton runner at the Guatepè hydropower plant


Guatepe hydropower plant, spherical valve DN 1.100 originally manufactured in 1965 and rehabilitated by ANDRITZ Colombia


The admission valves of these hydropower plants (nominal diameter 1,000 mm, 90 bar and nominal diameter 1,400 mm, 126.7 bar) are nearly 40 – 50 years old respectively. Comprehensive repair works has been carried out, successfully extending their operational life.

Guadalupe, pressure relief valve repair

Pressure relief valves suffer significant wear due to being exposed to very high operating pressures. The pressure relief valves at this plant also underwent comprehensive repair.

Modernization or repowering of hydroelectric power plants

Knowing the challenges that the construction of new hydroelectric plants entails today, it is important to identify existing facilities that have the potential for improvements in performance. Improvements could increase power output, efficiency, and availability through the incorporation of new materials, coatings, new hydraulic profiles, and online monitoring systems. In addition, operational assistance through platforms based on ‘Machine Learning’ and ‘Condition Based Maintenance’ offer substantial gains and this segment has the greatest potential in Colombia. Currently, ANDRITZ is executing a project in Colombia where the increase in power output from each rehabilitated unit will be around 10% of the original nominal power.

Colombia has a unique potential to expand hydropower generation thanks to its extensive river water resources. The country has a hydropower potential of more than 50 GW of which nearly 11 GW (22%) are being used. Currently, the Mining and Energy Planning Unit (UPME) has recorded more than 46 hydroelectric developments equivalent to 1,870 MW of capacity that are in the 
initial stages. 

Existing hydroelectric capacity is at the heart of the energy transition in Colombia. Hydropower not only contributes with its generation of clean and sustainable electricity but also provides new services related to the stability of the grid. Modernization is therefore a key task and at ANDRITZ we are ready to continue supporting these initiatives.

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Author: Edwin Sierra

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