Enel suspends Colombia wind farm construction after years of protests

FILE PHOTO: The headquarters of Italian energy company Enel in Milan, Italy

BOGOTA (Reuters) - The Colombian unit of Italy's biggest utility, Enel, indefinitely suspended the construction of a wind farm in Colombia's north on Wednesday after a series of protests by local communities.

The decision comes two weeks after Enel reached an agreement with the communities to allow development to proceed normally after three years of delays.

Located in the municipalities of Maicao and Uribia in Colombia's La Guajira department on the border with Venezuela, the Windpeshi Wind Farm project was slated to generate 1,011 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of power annually, a capacity that would supply 500,000 homes.

Blockades organized since 2021 by the local indigenous Wayuu communities, however, disrupted the project's construction.

Eugenio Calderon, the Colombia and Central America manager for Enel Green Power, said the decision "hurts us not only as a company but as citizens committed to the energy transition" and was made after "rigorous analyses and feasibility studies" concluded the project's completion was not possible.

"Projects have to be sustainable not only from a social point of view but also from an economic point of view, and their success depends on joint work between companies, institutions and communities," Calderon said in a statement.

Enel Colombia announced it will evaluate the project's sale options and is open to facilitating the necessary agreements so the national government or interested companies in the sector can continue with construction.

Enel did not immediately provide the value of the project.

Difficulties in consultations with communities and with obtaining environmental licenses have kept many of the renewable energy projects in the La Guajira region awarded since 2019 on hold, according to the Association for Renewable Energies Colombia, one of the main unions in the sector.

(Reporting by Nelson Bocanegra; Editing by Chris Reese)