Colombia’s EPM submits plans for 150-MW El Sireno hydroelectric project

Empresas Públicas de Medellà­n (EPM) is seeking an environmental permit for the 150-MW El Sireno hydroelectric project in northwestern Colombia.

The project is earmarked for Urrao in Antioquia department and would require investments of COP1.28 trillion (US$350 million), according to documents filed with national licensing authority ANLA.

According to BNamericas, the request comes as EPM grapples with delays and cost overruns associated with its 2.4-GW Ituango mega-dam complex, also located in Antioquia. Last year, Oswaldo Ordóà±ez, a geologist and professor at La Universidad Nacional in Medellà­n, told BNamericas that Ituango was running more than three years behind schedule and at least US$1 billion over budget.

Construction work at Ituango — Colombia’s largest infrastructure project — was halted in April 2018 when the collapse of a water diversion tunnel forced the evacuation of 113,000 people and prompted the Antioquia regional  government to declare a state of emergency amid fears of catastrophic flooding. A series of further complications led EPM to postpone the scheduled December 2018 startup by three years in a best-case scenario.

Experts consulted by BNamericas say hydropower developers face a difficult task advancing their projects in Colombia amid rising concern about their social and environmental impacts. 

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