Rafael Carmona is member of the ANES (Asociación Nacional de Energía solar), and he is president of the company Greenmotion, a consulting company for the renewable energy areas. He is working also with the secretary of energy, in order to create some funds for the energetic sustainability, and to help innovation and promising projects. Rafael is well aware of the situation of the renewables in his country, and explains us the main feature of the energy landscape in Mexico.

Rapid look over the renewable energies in Mexico:

The renewable energy level in Mexico is much lower than one would expect. During the monopoly status, the development of the renewable energies was depending on what the CFE (Comisión Federal de Electricidad) would decide.

In 2009-2010, the first big projects of wind energy have been started in Oaxaca (South West), more specifically in the area of La Ventosa (curious name, no?). These projects have followed the scheme of self-sufficiency: the private producers got an agreement with the consuming municipalities or the local companies (like the bread-maker Bimbo, the concrete producer Cemex, the bottler Femsa, Walmart, !). Up to now, there are 2GW installed of wind energy. And in Oaxaca, the electricity lines are saturated by this wind energy: the bottleneck is now to develop in that state stronger electric lines.

Mexico has a huge potential for solar energy, especially in the North West of the country. Over there, there is twice as many sunny hours as in Germany! However not much is done in PV. The main applications of PV foreseen for the moment are in isolated areas, outside the grid. But the equipment tends to breakdown very soon, and there is no one to repair it. The biggest project of PV now is only of 1MW. But Rafael thinks a boom of the PV energy will arrive soon. Currently, 0.2% of the energy mix comes from the solar energy.

The country is also a big potential in the hydroelectric energy. This potential has been exploited since the 50s and 60s. Now, for the big dams, the country is nearly saturated. However, there is an interesting potential for the mini hydro.

Mexico also has geothermic energy: in the states of Michoacan and Baja California. This area was very developed in the 80s (Mexico was among the world leaders in geothermic energy), but the CFE ceased to invest in it afterwards.

There are plans to develop tidal power and biomass, but nothing concrete yet. For the biomass, just look at the tequila and mescal industry: they create a huge quantity of organic waste, that for sure would be very useful in biomass power plants.

Of these energies, the only two that are economically rentable for the moment are the wind energy, and the solar energy.

Swinging between private and public company:

Until 75 years ago, there were many private companies generating electricity in Mexico. But there was inequality in the repartition of this energy. So the government took control of this industry, and electrified the country, in order to reach the 98% of the house connected to the grid nowadays.

In Mexico, the government is responsible for the whole chain of the electricity. The CFE generates, distributes and sells the electricity (In Europe, it is already several years that the national champions have been sliced down to separate these activities). Until recently, in Mexico, the strategic activities had to be a state monopoly, and the electricity was one of them, along with the oil exploitation (and the idea is still debated now, the recent privatization of Pemex has thrown thousands of people to protest in the streets). This privatization is due to the end of cheap oil resources in Mexico: now, big investments must be carried out to extract new oil, and Pemex does not want to be the only company taking risks here.

In 1998, a law was passed so that, under some strict conditions, private electricity producers can be accepted. This law defines 6 very limited cases (one of them being the self-sufficiency). Currently, about 40-45% of the electricity comes from private plants.

There is no feed-in tariff, nor any other kind of incentive for the renewable energy. Only the most rentable projects will be conducted (like the wind energy in Oaxaca). A few months ago, an energetic reform opened a space for the generation and sales of the electricity.

Then government chose the time of the Football World Cup to debate in the Congress about the secondary laws of the energetic reform! Rafael and his company depend on the results of this debate to know if their business is sustainable for the next years. With this reform, it is expected that a particular individual can sell electricity to the network.

Private individuals and small shops depend on the CFE, while the big consumers will be able to choose the private producers.

In the industrial sector, the price of the electricity decreases if you consume more. It is an incentive to consume more energy, and not less as the reason would say.

Some measures for the energetic transition:

The Infonavit, an agency from the government, gives money for installing in the newly built houses technologies for saving energy. This has created a niche, with the constructors making a bigger margin thanks to this funding, but it has allowed the spreading of the solar water heaters. In fact, this type of heater is very efficient, its return on investment is in one or two years.

Several agencies have been created by the Mexican government to foster renewable energies and technologies. One for the energetic efficiency, one for the invention in energy (divided into solar, wind, geothermy, !)

For the rural communities, the state provides efficient stoves: in those places, the old stoves require a lot of firewood, which accentuates the deforestation.