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Government decree allows unusual partnerships for new clean energy projects: 'We know these projects will bring development'

The new regulations could be the missing piece that helps to ease the stalemate.

The new regulations could be the missing piece that helps to ease the stalemate.

Photo Credit: iStock

Indigenous Colombian communities are to be encouraged to partner with renewable energy companies under new regulations designed to unstick the country's stalled energy transition. 

A decree signed in December will enable Indigenous, minority, and rural groups to generate energy using renewable sources, such as wind and solar, according to Reuters. Each group can then sell surplus energy back to the grid.

"The energy communities or associations of energy communities can associate with third parties from the public, private or community sector," the decree stated.

In 2022, Colombia became the first major nation to join the fossil fuel non-proliferation coalition, with President Gustavo Petro pledging to move the country away from oil and gas toward renewable energy.

At the moment, less than 1% of Colombia's energy comes from renewable sources. Though more than 50 wind and solar projects have been announced since 2019, none of them had been set in motion as of August.

Many of these projects have faced opposition from the Wayuu people, whose senior members say they are being undertaken without proper consultation with the Indigenous group. 

According to the Wayuu, construction of these projects would threaten wildlife and trees as well as remove crucial grazing areas for goats — a valuable food source for the community.

In La Guajira, a hot desert region where most of the wind turbines are located, renewable energy corporations from the United States and Europe have been accused of a reluctance to hire or share profits with Indigenous communities, as noted by Progressive International. 

This is despite how much the Wayuu have to gain from money generated by renewables — they make up a fifth of Colombia's Indigenous community, but a third of them live in poverty. 

Protesting the exploitation of their ancestral home, the Wayuu with road blockades put projects such as Enel's Windpeshi wind park (which would have powered 500,000 homes) on permanent hiatus. 

The new regulations could be the missing piece that helps to ease this stalemate, giving Indigenous communities a seat at the bargaining table as well as a new source of income.

It will also help to get Colombia back on the road to its target to reduce pollution from dirty energy sources by 51% by 2030.

"We know these projects will bring development for the country," José Silva Duarte, director of the human rights group Nación Wayuu and a member of the Wayuu, told Yale Environment 360. "But if that's the case, then why can't they also mean development for the ancestral owners of this land, the Wayuus? We just want to be active partners of the companies."

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