CELSIA Panama-A Social, Economic and Environmental Approach

CELSIA Panama-A Social, Economic and Environmental Approach

Celsia is Colombia’s fourth biggest energy firm and has a history going back to 1919, when it was started as Coltabaco, a tobacco firm founded in Medellín, until 2001 when it turned into an investment fund known as ColinversionesAfter  a series of strategic investments over the years, in 2007 the company became focused on the Colombian energy sector, where it still operates today. By 2010, all of its assets were energy-related and in 2012, it converted to its current name, Celsia S.A. E.S.P.

Celsia began a process of internationalization in 2014, when it acquired all of GDF Suez’s thermoelectric, hydroelectric and wind energy assets in Panama and Costa Rica for a price of US$840 million. The acquisition made it the second largest electricity generator in Panama.

The firm has an installed capacity of 2,390 MW spread across 27 plants in Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica. Seven of these plants are located in Panama and Costa Rica. Notably, in Panama, Celsia has installed capacity of 484MW – allowing it to fulfil 19% of the country’s electricity demand and making it one of the largest providers in Central America.

The company’s financials over the past few years have also been more than healthy. Celsia’s consolidated revenue in 2015 was US$ 1.344 million, exhibiting18% year-on-year growth. The fourth quarter results of 2015 showed EBITDA of just under US$40 million – with the annual EBITDA reaching US$249 million.

Celsia People

Celsia employs over 1,400 employees, with 294of those working from its Central American bases. With 570,000 direct final users in Colombia, as well as millions indirectly served through supply to the distribution grids  across the three countries it operates in, as well as several partner organizations, communities near its installations, suppliers and off-takers,  it means the firm needs has to take account of a large amount of stakeholders in its decision making. Its maxim, “always work to generate value among stakeholders,” captures this importance.

The Celsia stakeholder maxim doesn’t just refer to economic ties, but also the requirement to develop mutually beneficial relationships with its neighbouring communities, implementing practices to improve the quality of life of its employees and families, to have policies that allow for the development of its suppliers, and finally, a respect for all environments in which it operates and all the audiences with which it relates.

All of this in turn is driven by the firm’s core set of values: to give the very best so that the company and its stakeholders can grow together, to be agile and trustworthy, to dare to be different, and to enjoy making life easier for everyone – a motto that ties together everything the company does. Employees can also count on Celsia’s people management model, which seeks to attract, develop and retain its talent, provides a work environment where  people will thrive, and endeavours to develop the quality of life of the employees.


Celsia’s sustainability model is grounded in three dimensions: social, economic and environmental. The company maintains an effective balance between the three components. In each area, Celsia strives to generate best-in-industry policies and practices. This commitment to sustainability has been noticed by several outside parties, including the prestigious Dow Jones Sustainability Index, which has noted Celsia for the progress it has made in its sustainability index. In 2016, the firm also joined a group of the most sustainable companies in the world, being listed on the RobecoSAM Sustainability Yearbook.  The company is also part of other international initiatives such as the Global Compact, CEO Water mandate, Carbon Disclosure Project and the International Center for Hydropower.

The firm’s commitment to sustainability can be seen, not just in its energy assets, but throughout the organization. For example, in Panama, the firm will finish construction of its Central American headquarters later this year. The building will have LEED energy certification, and will create an innovative space where employees and visitors can meet and work in harmony, in an atmosphere that at once is environmentally friendly and an enjoyable place in which to spend the working day.

The Celsia Foundation is another aspect of the firm’s work in this area. Through several initiatives in Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica it has contributed to improve the living conditions of its stakeholders and the sustainability of the regions in which they live. The major focus of the foundation until now has been education and as of 2015, the firm had contributed to the education of over 90,000 people in Colombia alone. In Panama, the commitment to education can also be seen in the province of Colon, where Celsia has developed a functioning primary school for the Kuna community and also in the San Pedro community of Cativa, where the company has developed a program of positive values and leadership through the teaching of martial arts.

2015 also marked the firm’s first year of operations in Central America and it has already joined reforestation initiatives in Panama, signing an agreement with the Panamanian Association for the conservation of natural resources (ANCON) to support the “Alliance for the million” project which seeks to reforest one million hectares in that country over a 20-year period.

Also in 2015, the firm set in motion several projects whose aim was to improve the lives of the communities living close to its operations. One such project could be seen in the province of Chiriqui, where the firm installed a new well for the 2,000 strong community and all the necessary infrastructure to bring it to their community so that it arrived safe and potable. Elsewhere, in conjunction with the government, the firm made significant improvements to the access roads of communities in Guayabal and Zambranos.

Suppliers and contractors

Aiming for sustainability across the board in its own country and others is made easier when a company carefully selects its partners. Celsia therefore spares no efforts in choosing the right partners for its different activities. Doing business with inadequate or unsuitable suppliers and contractors would not only undermine future work, but also potentially damage good work that the firm had already put in place through its electricity and sustainability initiatives. All partners should share the firm’s value and ethical culture, establish trust and teamwork and a sense of mutually beneficial co-operation.

Celsia’s principal suppliers and contractors therefore include Man Diesel, the equipment manufacturer at the firm’s Catívá thermoelectric plant. Man Diesel, a German company with a strong presence in Panama, also provides Celsia with commercial and technical support. Elsewhere, GE and Alstom assist the firm with its design of new projects as well as the ongoing improvement of existing assets. Enercon provides servicing and equipment for Celsia’s Eólica Guanacaste plant.

Celsia also has a range of local partners, however. Energy Equipment and Service, a Panamanian firm, helps it with servicing of tears and leaks in generators, skilled labour services for turbines and the supply of spare parts. Constructora RB, S.A. provides the rental of heavy equipment used in civil works, and Norcontrol Panama, S.A. provides quality control tests to TX as well as its generators.

Opportunities and the future

The energy market in Central and South America is a fast-changing one. Entrants to the market have included everyone from Spanish and German firms to the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund. As such, Celsia is always looking for opportunities on the horizon. In electricity generation, it has identified opportunities in non-conventional renewable energy (solar and wind) in Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica that will represent an important complement to conventional energy sources. These projects will contribute to the current portfolio with the stability of their flows and minor cycles of investment.

It aims to continue on its growth path by maintaining its existing assets and approaching new segments, diversifying its portfolio and expanding its regional presence. All, of course, carried out with one eye on sustainability

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