AUCTION NOTEBOOK | Canny Colombia noses ahead of Brazil to take pole in South American offshore wind race

December 15, 2023
5 min read
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Bogotá is foregoing price-led bids in favor of qualitative criteria in its flagship tender with an eye on securing lead-off gigawatts from experienced developers, writes Signe Sørensen

What’s the news? 

Colombia published final documents for its first offshore wind tender this month (December), putting it in pole position to be the first South American nation to take concrete steps toward developing its sea-based wind resource, and bolstering the wider continental play.

What’s the backstory?

Brazil – one of the world’s most prolific offshore oil & gas basins – has until now dominated the spotlight in South America’s offshore wind play, with more than 200GW of projects lined up through the current open-door scheme by big-hitters including Shell, TotalEnergies, Corio, OceanWinds, Equinor and state-owned Petrobras. But Colombia has meanwhile quietly set up a well thought through regulatory framework for offshore wind development, and now the smaller country is ready to launch Latin America’s first offshore wind tender.

What are the winning criteria in the tender?

Bogotá’s goal is to kick-start offshore wind development now and reap long-term benefits later. The tender is designed to optimize the chances of projects actually being built and ensuring that Colombia ultimately sees economic benefits if they are – while also recognizing that it is unfeasible to expect the domestic supply chain to deliver major components for these first arrays.

Headshot Signe round

‘Bogotá’s goal is to kick-start offshore wind development now and reap long-term benefits later. The tender is designed to optimize the chances of projects actually being built and ensuring that Colombia ultimately sees economic benefits‘

Signe Sørensen
Senior Research Analyst - Regional Lead Americas
Aegir Insights

For this reason, the tender will not incorporate local content demands on the supply, but will instead require bidders to enter into a partnership with a state company to ensure that knowledge is transferred to Colombian companies and workers. And further, the tender will not make awards based on the highest cash bids. Instead, developers will be scored according to a point system based on a series of qualitative measurements.

These include experience with successfully processing the environmental license or authorization for offshore wind projects (20%), development of offshore wind projects (60%), construction and/or operation of transmission projects for renewable energy in emerging markets (15%) and execution of technical skill transfer programs to local authorities or companies (5%).

What's the size of the prize?

Colombia’s Atlantic coast is home to world-class offshore wind resources with a technical potential estimated at around 124GW. Mean wind speeds range between 8-12 meters per second, with La Guajira standing out with the richest wind streams across the largest shallow-water areas. Smaller areas close to the cities of Barranquilla and Santa Marta also see steady winds, among them the area up for tender soon. Though floating wind sites are plentiful, cost constraints suggest Colombia’s build-out will initially be focused on the 38GW of fixed-bottom potential.

Drivers for Bogotá include a need to diversify Colombia’s energy exports to minimize exposure to future volatility in the global oil market, the need for more electricity produced in the north of the country to circumvent grid bottlenecks, and a general demand for energy diversification to reduce its dependence on hydropower.

Map by Aegir Insights highlighting the area open for bidding in Colombia 's first offshore wind tender off Cartagena and Barranquilla. The map also shows the water depths off Colombia's North coast.
RICH RESOURCE: Colombia’s Atlantic coast is home to world-class offshore wind resources with a technical potential estimated at around 124GW (MAP: Aegir Insights)

Who is likely to bid?

That remains to be seen, but so far Colombia looks like a relatively uncrowded market with good green-field development opportunities. Unlike in Brazil, where developers have put in for environmental licenses for some 88 projects, only a few developments have so far been announced in Colombia, most of them by BlueFloat Energy and Enerxia Renovables, including the somewhat matured 200MW Vientos Alisios. Also of note, Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners has signed a memorandum of understanding with the city of Barranquilla to develop 350MW of offshore wind. A few of these previously announced projects may have a slight advantage over just-begun projects in the tender, but only if they got to the pre-feasibility stage under the old open-door framework, which was in use before the tender announcement.

What would the winners get?

Successful bidders in this first offshore wind tender in Colombia will be granted ‘temporary occupation permits’ providing exclusive rights to carry out various feasibility investigations in the awarded area, ahead of applying for a 30-year maritime concession which would give final rights to develop offshore wind in the area (pending a grid connection offer and various other environmental and social permits).

Which areas are going under the gravel?

Two swaths of water off Colombia are on offer. Area A is the most de-risked area, having already been pre-investigated to an extent by the government, and here bidders can directly make a proposal. By contrast, in Area B bidders must nominate the desired area and present certain preliminary investigations relating to the feasibility of an offshore wind development in the area. Developers will be allowed to bid for multiple areas, but can ultimately be awarded maximum two areas.

What happens next?

The tender will kick off with a pre-qualification phase, where interested parties must document their financial and technical capabilities. The final list of qualified participants should be published by the end of April, after which the developers can prepare their formal “bids”, due in the beginning of August, with results expected in November.

What does this mean for the market?

Colombia’s tender is the first concrete sign that offshore wind, after years of waiting and watching, is finally taking off in Latin America. The prize for the country could be as much as 10GW of sea-based wind power, namely if a hydrogen route to market opens up for the power produced and/or the windy La Guajira peninsula is opened up to offshore wind. Spurred by Colombia’s drawing ahead in the race, Brazil may also want to soon publish its long-awaited framework for awarding seabed rights, in which case the regional market will start to gain some critical mass.

Want to learn more about the nascent offshore wind market in Colombia and the potential in La Guajira? Aegir Insights just published updated market reports about Colombia to our clients.

Furthermore Aegir Insights releases a monthly Auction Intelligence package for subscribers, including an updated Auction Database, giving an overview of offshore wind auctions across all global markets, their volumes and when they are starting.

Reach out to us here to learn more about Aegir Insights intelligence offerings.

This article was first published in Aegir Insights' intelligence newsletter, Beaufort.

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