In this episode of Energ’ethic, Juan Pablo Cárdenas, an environmental engineer turned humanities advocate, guides us through the energy transition in Colombia and South Africa. Juan Pablo shares his journey from technical engineering to a multidisciplinary approach, highlighting the importance of building lasting, sustainable solutions. Drawing from his personal experiences with blackouts in Colombia and South Africa, he sheds light on how such events can transform energy systems.
Juan Pablo emphasises the unequal distribution of electricity access in both countries, with South Africa ranking as the most unequal country globally. He discusses the policy responses to address energy poverty, including the free basic electricity allowance in South Africa and Colombia’s cross-subsidy mechanism. These initiatives aim to make electricity more affordable and accessible for marginalised communities.
A key focus of the conversation is energy communities and their potential to reshape the energy landscape. Juan Pablo shares insights from a pilot project in Medellin, Colombia, where a middle-income neighbourhood became an energy community. He highlights the importance of community leadership figures in driving such initiatives and building a sense of ownership and participation among residents.
Collaborating with the vertically-integrated utility, EPM, Juan Pablo and his colleagues navigate the regulatory landscape to enable the energy community to thrive. They also engage with policymakers, regulators, and local governments to raise awareness about the transformative potential of energy communities. Juan Pablo discusses how energy communities are gaining prominence in Colombian politics, particularly for remote areas where energy poverty is a pressing concern.
By diversifying the energy mix and promoting local sustainability, energy communities offer a pathway to a more cohesive and resilient energy system. Juan Pablo believes that energy communities represent a unique opportunity to foster community and social cohesion while promoting conscious resource use, which are essential for resilience towards climate change, addressing both mitigation and adaptation challenges.
Tune in to this inspiring conversation with Juan Pablo Cárdenas to learn how energy communities can empower individuals, create a more equitable energy landscape, and drive the transition towards a sustainable future in Colombia and beyond.
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