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Energy Transition, Opportunities and Challenges
Energy Transition, Opportunities and Challenges

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Technological advances in humanity are part of the ongoing evolution of our societies: from the change in manual labour at factories, to steam engines that were more efficient and enabled goods to be mass-produced, thereby promoting the set-up of production lines that allowed societies to grow rapidly; and even the design of microchips that nowadays allow for the advanced development of artificial intelligence which, due to its analytical capacity, can generate current poems based on poems written by deceased great poets.

Technological advances always seek to improve some aspect of current developments, whether by generating more efficient machinery, having processes with higher yields, or preserving some desirable feature that was lost in the processes already developed. In this sense, the field of energy generation is no stranger to these advances, together with the fact that climate change is progressing quickly and there is a need to transition from more polluting energy sources to energy sources with less impact on the environment. This was already evident in 1977 when W. Hafele and W. Sassin concluded in their article “THE GLOBAL ENERGY SYSTEM” that “ we face the simple fact that the optimal use of global resources requires a stable and persistent global order. It is our limited capability to establish such an order that will finally decide if and how we manage the energy transition [1]. Moreover, it is important to note that at that time there was already a clear need for an orderly energy transition to ensure the optimal use of global resources.

But what is the energy transition? Its most appropriate or most general definition, which is found in several documents, can be considered to be the migration or replacement of non-renewable energy sources with renewable energy sources, in other words, diversifying the energy matrix with renewable energy sources[2].

According to Dr Christoph Frei, there are three forces in the energy generation sector that drive it towards a new reality. The first of these is climate change and the commitment undertaken in the COP21 agreements, which established that global warming is to be maintained at 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The second force is innovation; many of today’s technologies for energy generation were unthinkable in the past in terms of electrical energy, so much so that the new technologies related to electrical energy are becoming the “oil of the future”[3]. The last force is related to natural hazards and the resilience or ability to adapt to them.

On the road to the energy transition, in 2020 Colombia ranked 25th out of 115 countries according to data from the World Economic Forum. What makes us a regional benchmark as highlighted in CONPES 4075 is that “this achievement is explained by the persistent efforts and the advances obtained from different sectors, such as electricity, transportation, hydrocarbons, and mining[4].

CONPES 4075 is a document drawn up by the Colombian government that defines the “ENERGY TRANSITION POLICY”, highlights the regulatory framework that is consistent with the energy transition policy, and outlines several laws that have been enacted to guide this transition. Moreover, the gaps related to the use and exploitation of resources when generating energy, distributing it and using it are likewise identified. This document establishes an overall objective, the corresponding specific objectives, and the action plan to consolidate the energy transition process.

CONPES further states that:

“The energy prospection documents of international agencies make it clear that clean electrification is sought in the transition, but to achieve it, fossil fuels will have to play an important role temporarily or for a more extended time. This is due, on the one hand, to energy and economic dependence on fossil fuels and, on the other, to some of the technologies required to replace them, which are still being developed.[5]

The latter is especially relevant since the energy transition opens the door to innovation and the generation of new solutions that allow for energy production that is not based on non-renewable energy sources. These new developments must always be protected by some form of intellectual property which guarantees that their proprietors obtain the benefits for the effort put into developing these technologies, whether by protection through invention patents or utility model patents.

With regards to the types of protection, the concern arises as to how to encourage protection of these technologies. One interesting case is the programme developed by the INPI (National Institute of Industrial Property) of Brazil, which seeks to promote the protection and development of technologies associated with the energy transition or “green technologies”, cas they are also known. The INPI programme aims to generate an examination fast track, so that when a patent application is classified for said track, the timeframe required for the patentability examination can be reduced to as much as two years. It is worth noting that the timeframes for the patentability examination of applications before the INPI, which do not have an examination fast track, are currently around 5 years to obtain a first office action. The programme establishes that patents eligible for this fast track must be included in one of the following technological sectors: alternative energies, transportation, energy conservation, waste management, or sustainable agriculture[6].

Although the time it takes for patent applications to be examined in Colombia are relatively short compared to other jurisdictions, it would be of interest if the Superintendence of Industry and Commerce, together with the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, could establish incentives both in terms of discounts on official fees corresponding to the processing of green energy patents, the creation of financing programmes for the development of green technologies, and/or support in negotiations either for the scaling or for the licensing of technologies to third parties.

In short, the energy transition presents a number of challenges to be solved by various areas of expertise, which will surely generate new knowledge and technological developments that can be protected and exploited.

Nicolás Carvajal
PONS IP Technical patent manager – Colombia

[1] THE GLOBAL ENERGY SYSTEM, Ann. Rev. Energy. 1977.2:1-30; W. Hafele and W. Sassin.

[2] Ministry of Mines and Energy, Republic of Colombia (2022). Social dialogue to define the roadmap for the Just Energy Transition in Colombia.

[3] Taken from

[4] Taken from CONPES 4075, Bogotá, D.C., 29 de marzo de 2022 – Pagina 27.

[5] Taken from CONPES 4075, Bogotá, D.C., 29 de marzo de 2022 – Pagina 27.

[6] Taken from

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