La Guajira wind energy: La Guajira: a power of wind energy that still cooks with firewood | 6AM Today by Today

Multiple energy projects are underway in that department to take advantage of gas, the sun, but, above all, the wind. All of them announce the generation of employment, mainly during assembly. Making them have a social impact and improve the living conditions of a region that suffers from hunger and thirst seems to be the most obvious challenge.

The region faces a business transition that will largely define its future. There is a decade left until the end of the Cerrejón coal concession -which is its main source of income- and the stage of production of energies considered clean has already begun. Although it has been learning from its mistakes and replicating good practices, the business sector still has many differences with the Wayúu communities.

Companies have come to La Guajira motivated by certain bonanzas. In other times they came for salt, gas and coal. According to him Professor Weildler Guerra Curvelo, the communities have been learning to defend their rights and to know the international and national norms that protect them. Guerra is of Wayúu origin, is an anthropologist, PhD, columnist and, by certain chance, was also a governor. In his opinion, the new investors do not seem to understand the cultural particularities of the Wayúu people because they consider the wind to be simply a resource that must be exploited, while for the indigenous culture the winds are people and each one has its own character. This academic believes that, when designing this energy policy, an opportunity was lost to make the Wayúu population a partner in the projects. He regrets that the national government has been, he underlines, a public relations agent for the companies and not an impartial arbiter who informed the communities about their rights.

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Professor Weildler Guerra Curvelo / Caracol Radio

Guerra warns that the environmental, social, cultural and landscape effects of thousands of panels and wind turbines and long high-voltage power lines are still unclear. He warns about little-known “developer” companies that design the projects, make initial consultations with the clans, agree on small compensation to those who may be affected, and then sell their projects to larger companies. He recalls that these wind developments will not leave royalties and will be built not on vacant lots in the nation but on a million hectares of the main Wayúu reservation. It is the largest indigenous nation in our country and has grown considerably in recent years with the arrival of thousands of people of its ethnic group who were on the Venezuelan side. One of the problems that the Colombian State has is that it does not know exactly how many there are; For this report, some sources calculated a census of 370,000, but others estimate that the Wayúu population may be 800,000 people. Both sides agree on the extremely high rates of illiteracy that, for the municipality of Uribia, could reach 65% (based on 2017 figures).

The companies want their schedules to be met and the communities demand that their conditions be heard. The arrival of powerful national and international companies to take advantage of the boom of renewable energies causes much expectation. There are those who see redemption in the arrival of the private sector in the face of the well-known absence of the state and an almost pathological institutional weakness. Dozens of elected, appointed and commissioned governors have ended up sanctioned, dismissed or imprisoned. Consequently, neither the communities nor the companies can count on a legitimate arbitrator who can mediate their relations. Listen to the diagnosis he makes Luis Baquero, from the ANDI Más Guajira regional table.

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Luis Baquero, from the ANDI Más Guajira regional table / Caracol Radio

When the country talks about La Guajira, often highlights their natural beauty or their suffering from malnutrition, thirst and poverty. These problems could be even more dramatic in the future because the region will suffer more drastically the effects of the climate crisis that increases temperatures and makes dry seasons even more intense. That, for a population struggling for food security, can be catastrophic. This department has been experiencing tensions for some time over the use of water. Corpoguajira this year it will update its regulations so that -what little they have- it can supply its people, the mines, banana growers, palm growers, rice growers and millions of goats that seem to reproduce without control. To try to mitigate the effects of the climate emergency, this environmental authority says it is planting 2 million trees, mainly in springs and channels of scarce water sources. They should do much more, but the entity complains of having more and more functions, but not more budget. Its director, Samuel Lanao, says that in the last ten years this has been reduced to a tenth as a result of the reform to the distribution of royalties. The official draws the attention of the country because he believes that the new electricity generation and transportation infrastructure could contaminate the landscape of this department with enormous tourism potential and could endanger the diversity of birds. Therefore, he asks to arrange those lines in carefully designed corridors.

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Samuel Lanao, director of Corpoguajira / Caracol Radio

In La Guajira -at least- 10 electrical complexes of well-known companies are underway that try to avoid mistakes that other companies made in the past, particularly in their relationship with the communities. All of them are concerned, above all, about security. In recent days they have suffered theft of vehicles and equipment and armed attacks on their employees and contractors. Although the authorities make security councils and deploy troops, this seems insufficient in a large area affected by border problems.

to Oscar Mauricio Gómez, socio-environmental leader of Celsia / Caracol Radio

In the new energy developments there are national and foreign investors; some privately owned and others that include public capital. are the new neighbors Arijuna with whom the Wayúu will have to live in the coming decades. Two of them are owned by Celsia, a multilatina of Colombian origin that bought some wind generation projects developed by other companies, unified them, strengthened them and is now trying to obtain the approval of communities and authorities to generate almost 350 megawatts between them. Maicao and Uribia. This company put its projects under the magnifying glass of the ANLA trying to get an environmental license. In the process, the number of communities (more than 100) you need to consult has tripled. The clans can agree with the company on compensation that translates into projects related to rural electrification, drinking water or education. If disagreements appear between the parties, there are defined methods to solve them during the next 3 decades. Listen to Oscar Mauricio Gómez, socio-environmental leader of Celsia.

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Several of the so-calledwind farms” They will be in Uribia, where at least 160,000 members of the Wayúu ethnic group live. That municipality, heart of that indigenous nation, is also the epicenter of the so-called “energy transition”. There, in addition, they search for gas and project offshore wind turbines, that is, large structures to take advantage of the Caribbean winds, over the sea, to the north of the peninsula. As if that were not enough, Uribia is home to a Cerrejón railway line that transports coal to Puerto Bolivarr, a dock serving the same company. At the same time, it is one of the municipalities with the most worrying figures for unsatisfied basic needs. Companies have arrived that claim to be very socially responsible but that cannot replace the State.

The Duke government promoted million-dollar investments in clean generation that will serve the country, but rural electrification, which should bring energy to the communities that will be neighbors of these projects, is not going at the same rate. In other words: in rural areas where wind power will be produced today they continue to cook with firewood. Plans to extend high-voltage power lines to the rest of the country are ready, while plans to bring electricity to rancherías are slower.

Caracol Radio was in the paradise community, in Uribia. There, as part of the consultation to approve a Celsia wind project, the community received the promise of solutions with solar panels for their homes. Its inhabitants have a well and a jagüey, that is, a rainwater pond from which people and livestock drink. In the middle of an extensive semi-desert region, it is a privilege that they share with their neighbors, but they hope that, with the agreed compensation, they can have a micro-aqueduct fed by water obtained from the subsoil and then made drinkable. Sindy Mejia Pepper is one of its members.

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Sindy Mejía Pepper / Caracol Radio

In the Wayúu community of Tankamana there is a similar situation. A population made up of more than 40 families, without water or electricity, yearns that, by authorizing the presence of a private company, it can obtain the resources to overcome the deficiencies. Rafael López, Wayúu lawyer, is one of its leaders and claims to have struggled in vain for years to be partners and not just neighbors of the wind projects. He also regrets that his community ended up divided during the prior consultation process because its members did not agree on the amount, destination and administration of the resources. Neither before, nor during, nor after the arrival of the investors do they say they have been accompanied by the mayor of Uribia nor the Government.

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Both in Paraíso and Tankamana feel that they were able to establish a less unequal dialogue with an investment company because they had professional leaders, but they know that in other communities, where illiteracy is prevalent, it is unlikely to achieve a fair negotiation.

The companies say they are helping to formalize and train entrepreneurs from La Guajira to be their local suppliers and are trying to agree with the communities on projects that improve their living conditions. It sounds like a good first step, but building trust between these new neighbors will likely take years.

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