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2010 Wind Energy Status in Mexico
Renewable energy sources accounted for around 27% of Mexico’s total installed power generation capacity in 2010, but this was mainly from large hydro plants. Wind energy development has only recently started, and in 2010, Mexico installed 316 MW of new wind power capacity, taking the total up to 519 MW, which represents a 156% increase over 2009.
This growth was spurred by a more supportive legal and regulatory framework, the availability of new transmission capacity in the Oaxaca region, significant wind turbine price reductions, and renewed access to financing, which had been extremely limited after the financial crisis.
A Wind Potential of 71 GW
The Mexican government estimates the country’s wind power potential at around 71 GW, which takes into account 10% of the total potential area in 22 out of 32 states, and includes sites with capacity factors above 20%. For higher capacity factors (more than 30%), the estimated potential is around 11 GW.
The regions with the best prospects for wind power development include:
1. Isthmus of Tehuantepec, State of Oaxaca where the vast majority of operating wind farms (508 MW) are located, and a further 19 projects are under construction or in development. Capacity factors are in the range of 40%, and a total of 10 GW could be developed in this region alone. In 2010, three new projects came online here: Eurus (II phase) with 212.5 MW; bii Nee Stipa I with 26.35 MW, and La Mata – La Ventosa with 67.5 MW.
2. La Rumorosa, State of baja California, has an estimated wind potential of more than 5 GW. So far, there is only one 10 MW state-owned wind farm which was built in 2010, but a further six projects totaling 4,570 MW are under development and scheduled to come online in the next five years. However, project development schedules in this area have been dampened by legal uncertainty in land lease contracts between private developers and communal land owners, in the area.
3. The northern coast on the Gulf of Mexico, the bay of Campeche, States of Tamaulipas and Veracruz where a 161 MW project is planned to be built in 2011.
4. The Yucatán Peninsula, where considerable wind potential was identified at 50 and 80 meters.
5. The northern and central regions of Mexico in the states of Nuevo León, Coahuila, Chihuahua and Sonora, with lower capacity factors in the range of 20% to 30%.
The Policy Environment for Renewable Energy
Since the 1992 amendment of the “Electric Energy Public Service Law”, the private sector can participate in power generation, either through self-generation for particular entities or individuals, through generation from Independent Power Producers (IPP), or for export to other countries.
Under the self-generation scheme, power consumers can produce electricity for their own use, which will get delivered to the CFE (the national utility) interconnection point and then be transported to the consumer. Under the IPP scheme, private producers with plants over 30 MW must sell their power to the CFE through long-term power purchase agreements (PPA).
The 2008 Energy Reform Bill
In 2008, the Mexican government adopted an Energy Reform package, which included the Law for the Development of Renewable Energy and the Financing of the Energy Transition (“Ley para el Aprovechamiento de Energías Renovables y el Financiamiento de la Transición Energética”- LAERFTE) to reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuels by fostering renewable energy development.
The bill put the Energy Ministry, SENER, in charge of drafting a renewable energy programme, and it called for the development of a national strategy for the sustainable use of energy. Various bodies were created to design a renewable energy strategy, which also involves the private sector.
SENER was also charged with creating a “Special Program for the Use of Renewable Energy”, setting the objective of increasing the share of non-hydro renewable energy in the total national installed generating capacity from 3.3% (1,900 MW) to reach 7.6% (4,500 MW) by 2012 and the share of non-hydro renewable power generation from 3.9% to 6.6%.
Finally, a Renewable Energy Fund was created to promote the use of renewable sources and energy efficiency, including providing financing guarantees and direct support.
Three billion pesos (USD 220 million) have been allocated for this on an annual basis from 2009 to 2011. However, this fund has been used more for energy efficiency programs than for renewable energy technologies.
During 2010, a series of new regulations were issued by SENER to strengthen the regulatory framework for renewable energy, including reductions in the transmission charges for private renewable energy developers. Also new models of interconnection contracts and agreements for renewable energy small scale projects have created new opportunities for larger investments.
Obstacles to Wind Power Development
The Mexican wind energy industry still faces several obstacles. The regulatory framework is still incomplete and often unclear, the rules for the Renewable Energy Fund remain undefined, and there are no financial incentives for renewable energy development. While the current regulatory framework is suitable for sites with high capacity factors, as in the State of Oaxaca, most potential sites do not boast the same wind regime. For this reason, a change in the secondary regulation is needed.
Administrative procedures are often lengthy and cumbersome, and it is difficult to implement long-term contracts for land leasing. While the average time for the development of new projects has already come down from ten years to between three and five years, delays still occur in the complex cycle of permits, interconnection negotiations and problems with long-term land leasing.
In addition, transmission infrastructure in the windiest regions is insufficient and a new interconnection contract for lower wind class zones needs to be developed.
Also, more accurate wind resource assessments should be developed at both the regional and state levels.
Outlook for 2011 and Beyond
In 2011, an additional 717.2 MW of wind projects are expected to become operational in Mexico, which would take the country’s total installed capacity to more than 1,200 MW.
Some 3,500 MW are in the pipeline for development in Oaxaca, baja California and Tamaulipas in the next three to four years.
With input from the Mexican Wind Energy Association (AMDEE)