Deadline for Colombian consulting contract for urban waste energy production closes

30 May 2018

The Colombian Mining and Energy Planning Unit has put out a call for a consulting firm to conduct a feasibility study on bio-gas and bio-methane energy production from urban waste. The deadline for applications was the 30th of May and the successful applicant will begin the $112,000 contract in June this year. 

Colombia is South America’s largest coal producer and has a heavy reliance on fossil fuels to meet its energy consumption demands. The country is also a large exporter of crude oil and natural gas. Whilst Colombia generates roughly 70% of its own energy consumption from hydroelectric power, the remaining 30% are hydrocarbons.  

The Andean nation’s Mining and Energy Planning Unit (UPME) has stated earlier this year its desire to “strengthen the resilience of the electricity generation matrix to events of variability and climate change through risk diversification.” 

Whilst Colombia has serious potential for renewable energies with solar and wind, the UPME has set a target to achieve 30% renewable energy by 2030. With less than 1% of the current energy make-up from non-conventional renewables – solar, wind, etc. – the country wants to diversify the energy matrix.

In March, the UPME signed a decree that aimed to attract renewable energy companies and projects throughout the country. By April, there had been just under 300 applications for hydroelectric, thermal and non-conventional renewables, with a majority of proposed projects being solar-based. 

As the country has both an abundance of sun and wind potential, it is natural that the majority of proposed projects are within these realms. However, the UPME has recently put out the call for a consulting firm to aid the production of the country’s biogas and bio-methane capabilities. 

Deadline for Colombian consulting contract for urban waste energy production closes

The process no. 300-2018 released by the government asks for parties to develop a model to establish the technical, environmental, financial and economic feasibility of energy generation from solid urban waste. 

The model should not be location dependent, so that it functions in multiple sectors and across different municipalities and regions throughout Colombia. It should also be replicable in the sense that it must work with different types of waste so that it can add value to Colombia’s energy matrix.

"Bioenergy represents a great opportunity for Colombia, specifically in regions such as Valle del Cauca, which with only 2% of the national territory is the country's main agroindustrial producer,” said Esteban Piedrahita, President of the Chamber of Commerce in Cali. 

Colombia was the first country in Latin America to implement an E-waste management policy and are now looking for a viable way to transform their waste sector. Looking towards leaders in the field, it is possible to generate energy from upwards of 50% of urban household waste. After combustion, leftover ashes and metals can be separated and reused in new projects and as gravel for roads. 

The Colombian Ministry of Mines and Energy is paving the way both practically and legislatively for the transition and production of energy from urban waste. “The Ministry of Mines and Energy, for its part, will coordinate the measures necessary for the energy recovery of unusable waste, both at the level of the private energy sector and with the Ministry of Housing, City and Territory, in order to guarantee the activities required to obtain the raw material from the public waste service.”

The call by the government has been apparently met by an international consulting firm, however details of the selection are yet to be made public. 

Socio-economic inequality driving deforestation in Latin America

22 February 2019

Scientists at the University of Bern have found a connection between rising levels of socio-economic inequality and the rates of deforestation in Latin America.  

In combination with a rising level or urbanization across Central and South America, human development is a growing threat to the lungs of the Americas. Agriculture in particular and a growing demand for meat around the globe has seen hectares of forrest replaced with farmland each year.  

A rising demand for soy, palm oil, cocoa and coffee is translating into expanding plantations for these crops worldwide and contributing to deforestation at an unprecedented scale. However, other factors too need to be considered, according to a new analysis, with researchers from Switzerland finding that there is a correlation between inequality and deforestation. ”More equal distribution of income, wealth, and land ownership is not only fairer, but also an effective means of improving environmental protection,”said one of the project’s researchers, Graziano Ceddia.

"We know that different forms of inequality can significantly impact how environmental laws are formulated,”researcher Ceddia added. “The novelty of this study is its explicit investigation of the interaction between agricultural productivity, farmland expansion at the expense of forests, and various forms of inequality.”

Socio-economic inequality driving deforestation in Latin America

Just under half (40%) of Latin America is covered by the tropical rainforest known as the Amazon spanning from Brazil and Venezuela to Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. This territory represents 22% of the global forest area and it is located in the Amazon basin, which is the largest continuous mass of the world's tropical forests. 

The stark truth is that there is not one custodian of the Amazon where inequality is not a major electoral issue. "If we want to ensure that increased agricultural productivity serves to protect tropical forests, then the message to policymakers is clear,” Ceddia said. 

In an increasingly hostile political environment, advancing environmental or climate policies alone may be difficult. As Brazil’s new president demonstrates, he has already moved to relax protectionist policy for the Amazon, pushing sustainability up the agenda is easy at times of economic bloom, but significantly harder in the current economic climate. This leads Ceddia  to believe that, if played correctly, addressing inequality may be a leaver which could make a more important difference, and more importantly, is one that could be implemented in the current circumstances.

Deforestation and climate change

With the link being drawn between deforestation and inequality, it is imperative to note that there is also an inextricable link with carbon emissions. As forests are natural carbon capture and storage machines, deforestation and forest degradation also impact climate change.  

Around 15% of human-made emissions are directly linked to deforestation, second only to fossil fuel combustion,explained PwC partner Celine Herweijer in an article written for the World Economic Forum (WEF). “More than half of deforestation is the result of the production of commodities such as soy, palm oil, pulp and paper, and cattle products.”  

“Brazil, for example, has committed to reducing its emissions by 37% by 2025: almost half of that will be contributed by tackling emissions from its land use and forestry sectors… The business case is clear. The opportunity for the financial sector to play a part in driving and integrating sustainable practices into forestry management is enormous.” 

However, according to the researchers at Bern, to truly tackle the issue at its core and confront deforestation in the Amazon whilst meeting Latin countries’ pledges to the Paris Agreement, inequality cannot be ignored from environmental or climate policies.