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Sustainability

# Colombian Energy Company Makes a Bold Bet on Sustainability

## The president of Grupo Energía Bogotá, Juan Ricardo Ortega, talks about the challenges of energy transition and environmental protection.

When Juan Ricardo Ortega was appointed president of Grupo Energía Bogotá (GEB), Colombia’s largest natural-gas transporter and second-largest energy transmitter, in July 2020, he brought a unique set of skills and experiences to the role. Ortega was trained in economics, finance, and mathematics at the University of the Andes and then at Yale (where, at age 54, he’ll soon complete a PhD degree in economic development). He began his career as chief economist at multinational banking company BBVA in Bogotá in the 1980s but later transitioned to the public sector, when he was appointed economic adviser to then Colombian President Andrés Pastrana.

Ortega went on to hold other high-level public positions, such as vice minister of finance and commerce and secretary of finance for the City of Bogotá, as well as professorships at Colombian universities. From 2014 to 2020, he worked as an adviser to the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, DC, but returned to Colombia when he was appointed president of GEB. He joined at a critical moment, as the 125-year-old company expands its portfolio to include nonconventional renewable energy and increases its presence in Latin America. For example, in June 2021, GEB announced an agreement with the Italy-based energy multinational Enel to create Enel Colombia, a subsidiary that will include additional equity value of $1.4 billion in renewable energy assets located in Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, and Guatemala. GEB is well positioned to make these moves. It stands out among other Colombian public utilities because of its shareholder structure—although the City of Bogotá owns the majority of its shares (65.7%), close to 35% are privately held—which helps it stay above the political fray. GEB’s net profits rose by 36% in 2020, and it will distribute$437 million in dividends this year. In a recent video interview , Ortega shared his thoughts on the future of the energy sector in Colombia, as the country moves beyond hydropower to embrace other renewables.