NREL helps develop the next generation of renewable energy leaders in Colombia
The lab trains young energy leaders in Colombia through hands-on training and education
While much of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) campus sat quietly late on a Friday afternoon, one conference room was still buzzing. Nearly 20 international visitors sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) had just completed an action-packed week-long visit to NREL.
As part of the wrap-up discussion, Daniella Rough, Program Manager at NREL’s Acceleration, Deployment and Decision Support Center, and one of the main organizers of the trip, asked the group what the most interesting part of their visit to NREL. Almost in unison, they responded in Spanish with a “¡Todo!” enthusiastic, or in other words, “Everything!” “.
The visiting party was a cohort of early-career Colombian energy leaders who traveled to the NREL campus in May 2022 to tour the facilities, learn from NREL experts and collaborate in person after nearly three years of virtual collaboration. The cohort was made up of the 10 highest-scoring and most engaged participants of the Young Leaders Capacity Building Program in Variable Renewable Energy (VRE), as well as the project’s key implementing partners.
Campus tour caps off years of virtual interaction
The Young Leaders Program, for short, began with a comprehensive 12-month training course designed to prepare Colombia’s energy workforce to participate in the construction, operation and network integration of VRE projects. It was co-led by the USAID Colombia Mission with support from NREL, the United States Energy Association (USEA), and Tetra Tech, the Scaling Up program’s implementing partner. Renewable Energy (SURE) from USAID.
Public and private energy organizations from across Colombia nominated employees to participate in the course, resulting in the participation of more than 60 early career professionals from more than 20 organizations in the Colombian energy sector. While the program was originally scheduled to take place in person, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic forced the implementation team to redesign the course into a virtual format.
“It worked because we now have over 100 hours of recorded webinars focused on Colombia’s needs, applications and challenges,” Rough said. “Looking to the future, we hope to replicate the capacity building program and continue to serve new players entering the Colombian energy sector.
The visit to the NREL campus not only rewarded the participants for their dedication throughout the course, but was also an opportunity to finally meet, in person, many of the participants, experts and coordinators who contributed to the success of the course. .
“This visit is a celebration of what we have been able to do to position these young leaders to have a vision of the great potential of renewable energy, and the challenges and opportunities it presents for Colombia,” said Thomas Black, Head of Renewable Energy. at USAID Colombia.
Assistance and analysis provided in the Colombian energy sector
The Young Leaders Program is just one part of NREL’s extensive portfolio of projects in Colombia. Engagement with the Colombian government began in 2017, when NREL assisted in the design, preparation and implementation of international renewable energy auction mechanisms for large-scale solar and wind energy resources. scale and long-term power purchase agreements.
Most recently, NREL is part of a team supporting efforts to rebuild the energy system on the island of Providencia, decimated by Hurricane Iota in November 2020, with the goal of creating a more sustainable and resilient energy infrastructure to help Providencia resist the effects of climate change. Technical assistance covers research, capacity expansion analysis, white papers and technical assistance to inform an “energy master plan” for the island of Providencia and support the integration of energy resources renewable at the distribution level.
NREL is also supporting the Colombian government on regulatory changes regarding hydrogen, offshore wind and geothermal energy, as well as providing technical training materials to a similar workforce training program for communities. natives of the La Guajira region in Colombia, where a major development of renewable energies is underway. in planning.
Technical assistance for the implementation of the action plan
Between listening to NREL researchers and touring the lab facilities, the cohort also presented the progress of the action plans they developed as part of the course’s capstone activity. The action plans aim to apply the content received in the course to real-world energy issues that the participants were facing in their respective organizations. Each plan represents a different aspect associated with planning for the effective integration of distributed energy resources and electric vehicles in Colombia. One of the participants and visitors to the site, Carolina Obando Anzalo, from Colombia’s Comisión de Regulación de Energía y Gas, described how her group chose the best topic for their action plan.
“We identified that one of the important things to make electric mobility work in Colombia was a revision of the distribution code, so for our action plan we are making some recommendations and documenting them to improve the distribution code and improve the implementation of distributed energy resources in our country,” said Obando Anzalo.
Four of the action plans have received tailored NREL technical assistance over the past year to support implementation. They are being finalized and the results are expected in July 2022.
Demonstrate the value of NREL internationally
“The most exciting part of the visit was seeing the great leadership NREL has shown in transforming energy management in the United States and around the world,” said Regulatory Advisor Diana Marcela Orrego Vega. energy at Grupo Energía Bogotá.
“I was delighted with NREL’s willingness to share knowledge and research in the development of renewable energy that supports the energy transition,” she said.
Overall, the NREL site visit not only marked the culmination of the capacity building program, but also helped forge strong cooperation going forward that will continue to support Colombia on its transition journey. energy.
Learn more about NREL’s work with USAID in Colombia: Supporting Colombia’s Clean Energy Transition.
By Isabel McCan. Article courtesy of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) of the United States Department of Energy (DOE).
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