woman holding up a sign
Minister of Mining and Energy, Maria Fernanda Suarez explaining the Be Energy! programme to the media

Be Energy! campaign to increase energy efficiency kicks off in Colombian Caribbean

Targeted communication plan for the San Andrés and Providencia Archipelago aims to increase awareness about energy consumption and the use of renewables among locals

25. Oct 2019

In the main square of Plazoleta Aury on Providencia and Santa Catalina, inhabitants gathered last month to enjoy the island’s first energy, art and sustainability fair. Surrounded by a large-format artistic and graphic exhibition designed for the outdoors and boasting solar energy technology, which can be appreciated also at night, members of the community filled the space to view a work specially commissioned for the event by artist Jota Villareal. At five o'clock, a special prayer was said to bless the island’s efforts to improve energy efficiency and tackle the rising costs of electricity and significant greenhouse gas emissions.

Informative kits in energy efficiency provided at the launching event in Providencia. Photo credit: Edward Yoli

The fair is part of an outreach strategy in support of the an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)-funded programme to reduce energy consumption and promote the use of renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies in the Colombian archipelago. Working closely with local partner Creatividad en Acción, NIRAS America Latina is leading the Communication, Promotion and Positioning Plan of the "Efficient Management Program of Energy Demand in Non-Interconnected Zones - Pilot Archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina” or simply Be Energy! (also known in Creole English as Bi Eneryi!).

The event was a big success that followed an earlier similar celebration on San Andrés Island in August. On that occasion, locals came together this time in Morgan Canyon square, along with the Minister of Mining and Energy, local and national personalities, the Colombian Air Force (FAC), IDB, and officials from the Fund for Non-Conventional Energy and Efficient Energy Management. The fair ended with an emotional concert by the talented and popular music combo Hety & Zambo who, in this way, also joined the revolution of renewable energy and energy efficiency in the archipelago.

Demonstrative power generation to children of the Archipelago through a scale model. Photo credit: Edward Yoli

From now on, Be Energy! will focus its efforts on the replacement of light bulbs for middle- and low-income sectors throughout the islands, training on good energy habits for different organisations and users, and financial mechanisms to facilitate the replacement of high-energy consuming equipment in homes, businesses and with more efficient technologies.

In addition, solar panels are being installed in government buildings. The idea is that these actions, combined with behavioural change, will help save energy and reduce the cost of fuel used to generate energy in the islands, which is expensive and polluting. Up to 40% of current electricity costs could be avoided if the population puts their support behind Be Energy! and is committed to act accordingly. Using LED bulbs instead of incandescent bulbs, for instance, can reduce energy consumption for light by up to 80%.

At the launching event, several energy efficiency demonstrations caught the attention of attendees, such as the exhibition that lights up at night converting solar radiation into electric energy or the bicycles that lit up the figure of Tour de France champion Egan Bernal, transforming movement into electricity. Similarly, in interactive tents, children learned how to energise FAC aero-models using batteries also charged with solar energy.

The less energy the archipelago consumes, the less its inhabitants pay and the lower the government's spending on subsidies for generation and electricity consumption. The gain is tangible. In addition, it helps reduce the amount of polluting gases that heat the atmosphere and put the region's precious ecosystems at risk.

Watch this video from the launch event in Providencia and Santa Catalina island.