Mexico - High hopes amid market liberalisation

MEXICO: Mexico's wind sector is bracing itself for a second take-off, following the passing of an energy reform bill last December, which set a target of 9.5GW of wind power by 2022.

Key supporter… Mexican energy secretary Joaquín Coldwell
Key supporter… Mexican energy secretary Joaquín Coldwell

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The country's installed capacity stood at 1.8GW at the end of 2013.

Expectations for new capacity in 2014 are deceptively low, beneath even the 511MW that went online in 2013, which in turn was down on the 741MW installed in 2012.

"But, naturally, with reform on the table, investment has been holding back to see which way the cookie crumbles," says Ramon Fiestas, Latin American chair of the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC). Fiestas is confident that it has crumbled the right way. "Maybe not in time for much of a pick-up this year, but that will come."

End of state monopoly

Most notably, the reformed law ends the formal monopoly on power generation held by state utility and system operator CFE. "The exact shape of a liberalised power market mechanism is now under discussion," says Fiestas.

Through a loophole under the old law, CFE "delegated" wind development and operation through calls for wind power offers known as "open seasons" - all in Oaxaca, Mexico's windiest state. The process issued power purchase agreements (PPAs) to winning contenders, mostly Spanish companies. CFE and the developers carried out necessary grid improvements.

Another loophole permitted self-supply, whereby large industries supply their own power through partnerships and PPAs with wind developers. That fast growing strand of development indicated the desire for free enterprise mechanisms.

Now, the liberalisation reform "has already sparked an influx of requests from abroad for membership to the Mexican Wind Energy Association (Amdee)", says Mauricio Velasco, Amdee's research coordinator.

"The specific regulations are now under negotiation," he says. They include talks on how CFE can deploy grid improvements across the country as wind applications surge outside Oaxaca state. Already last year, the states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Jalisco and Chiapas comissioned wind capacity, breaking Oaxaca and Baja California's exclusivity as wind power states.

Following local opposition holding up hundreds of megawatts in Oaxaca - including the 396MW Marena project - "developers have learned the need for exhaustive negotiations and clear settlements", says Velasco. "Take off is on its way," says Fiestas.

Current political backdrop Since its electoral victory in July 2012, the federal PRI party government has consolidated its commitment to wind and other renewables, which form a central part of December 2013's energy reform

High point of 2013 Energy reform bill passed in December

Low point Commissioning deadline passes on 396MW Marena project without a single turbine going up due to blockades from indigenous opponents

Key influencer Federal state energy secretary Joaquin Coldwell, staunch supporter of wind power and key architect of the energy reform

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