USTDA Speeches
U.S.-Colombia Smart Grid Workshop - Welcome Remarks
Bogotá, Colombia
The Honorable Leocadia I. Zak, Director, U.S. Trade and Development Agency

February 11, 2014 — Good morning. Thank you, Nathan, for that kind introduction. On behalf of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, Colombia Inteligente and all of our program sponsors and supporting organizations, it is my pleasure to welcome you to the U.S.-Colombia Smart Grid Workshop.

USTDA is privileged to host this Workshop together with Colombia Inteligente, a coalition of industry organizations that are vital to the successful operation of the Colombian power grid. We are grateful for their partnership, and we look forward to future opportunities to collaborate.

Thank you also to our supporting organizations – the Colombian American Chamber of Commerce, Edison Electric Institute, NEMA, Smart Grid Interoperability Panel and Utilities Telecom Council – as well as our corporate sponsors – Oracle, C3 Energy, Aclara, Apex CoVantage, EnerNOC, Innovari, Opower, S&C Electric, Vaisala and Silver Spring Networks. This Workshop would not have been possible without their contributions.

We are honored to have with us such high-level representatives from Colombia, led by Director Angela Cadena of the Mining and Energy Planning Unit; Commissioner Mauricio Gomez of the Energy and Gas Regulatory Commission; and Alberto Olarte, President of Colombia Inteligente and Technical Secretary of the National Operations Council. I am also pleased to welcome some of my colleagues from the U.S. government: the Chargé d'Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Benjamin Ziff, as well as FERC Commissioner John Norris. Their participation demonstrates the great value that the United States places on our relationship with Colombia.

Finally, we are privileged to be joined by many smart grid technology leaders and innovators. They represent companies and organizations that can make first-class smart grid systems a reality in Colombia.

As these leaders know, there have been increasing opportunities for grid modernization projects in the U.S. in recent years. Dan Ton, the Department of Energy's Program Manager for Smart Grid R&D, will highlight a few of those projects for us later this morning.

But it seems that the global electricity transmission and distribution market, which is forecast to reach nearly $500 billion over the next seven years, is increasingly concentrated outside U.S. borders1. And Latin America promises to be a significant portion of that market.

Indeed, energy demand in Colombia is expected to increase by almost 4% this year, and will likely continue to rise as new oil fields become operational in 2015. Energy was a major focus of the bilateral meeting between Presidents Obama and Santos in Washington last December. And, when I met with Minister Acosta of the Ministry of Mines and Energy yesterday, he too emphasized the importance of energy cooperation to the U.S.-Colombia partnership. We discussed ways that our two countries can collaborate further on microgrids, renewables and other energy issues.

Minister Acosta was unfortunately unable to join us today, but he agrees that it is extremely beneficial to explore ways that the U.S. and Colombia can work together to deploy smart grid solutions.

That is one reason why we partnered with Colombia Inteligente to organize this Workshop – to connect Colombia's power sector decision-makers to U.S. smart grid technology providers, so that we may share best practices and develop plans for the future.

We have already begun that work. In fact, Colombia has been a key USTDA partner for several years. USTDA has supported nearly 60 activities in Colombia since 1981, spanning the country's energy, transportation, water and telecommunications sectors. Those efforts have helped us build strong relationships with both the Government of Colombia and private sector partners across the country. As a result, we are already engaged in supporting Colombia's smart grid development.

In fact, I was fortunate to be here last year for the signing of a USTDA grant to XM. That technical assistance will provide a roadmap to improve the monitoring and control of Colombia's increasingly complex power grid. As a result, the project will implement advanced technologies to reduce the frequency and duration of power outages. We will hear more about the project when XM and Quanta, their technical partner, join us for a panel discussion later this afternoon.

What you might not know is that this grant followed a successful smart grid technical visit that USTDA sponsored in October 2012. XM, as one of the 14 delegates on this trip, visited regulators and utilities in DC, Georgia and California. The group learned about U.S. best practices and technical solutions to enable a more reliable and efficient grid. And I understand that some of those same organizations will join us for another visit to the U.S. next month, to learn about implementing a Power Market Management System.

Activities like these – as well as the grant we will sign tomorrow for a demand side management pilot project with EMCALI – help USTDA fulfill its mission of linking U.S. businesses to global infrastructure opportunities. Our goal is twofold: to provide U.S. companies access to the sponsors of promising development projects around the world, and to give our local partners insight into the latest, most appropriate technologies to meet their needs.

I am confident that this Workshop will meet that goal. As you will hear over the next two days, the Colombian smart grid sector has enormous potential. In the future, I would love to hear that the U.S. organizations here today have forged partnerships that have enabled them to become the technology providers of choice in Colombia. Thank you very much.


[1] Navigant Research, "Smart Grid: 10 Trends to Watch in 2013 and Beyond," published 1Q 2013, available at: http://www.navigantresearch.com/research/smart-grid-10-trends-to-watch-in-2013-and-beyond.

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