By MARK LORENZANA
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) said on Thursday, July 14, in his daily press conference that there is strong interest from foreign investors to put up solar power plants in the country, but for this to happen control will be given to Mexico’s Secretariat of Energy (Sener), and the main partner will be the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE).
This statement from López Obrador came a day after his meeting with U.S. businessmen in Washington, D.C., as a part of his whirlwind trip to the United States where he also met with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and U.S. President Joe Biden.
“There is strong investment interest, especially from U.S. investors,” AMLO said. “As long as the planning will be done by the Secretariat of Energy, foreign investment (in solar energy) will be allowed, in partnership with the CFE.”
López Obrador went on to say, “We want to replicate the project that began in Sonora, a solar plant, throughout the border, not only to have energy in our country, but also to export energy to the border states of the United States.”
Mexican daily newspaper Reforma, in its “Templo Mayor” column on Friday, July 15, said that López Obrador’s plan did not make sense because he wants clean-energy projects to be approved by Sener, “which only thinks about fossil fuels,” and for foreign investors in solar power to enter a partnership with the CFE, “which is the main opponent of this type of clean-energy electricity generation.”
“Imagine that someone wants to sell you a car. The owner of the vehicle then tells you that you have to pay for it, but you will not be able to drive it, and you will not be able to decide where to go. This is exactly how Andrés Manuel López Obrador intends to attract businessmen from the United States,” the Templo Mayor column said. “López Obrador wants investors to buy the car, but for Secretary of Energy Rocío Nahle to drive it and for CFE Director Manuel Bartlett to be the copilot and mechanic.”
Meanwhile, Mexican financial and economic newspaper El Financiero reported on Wednesday, July 13, that Mexico’s Energy Regulatory Commission (CRE) has blocked three foreign energy companies — Engie SA, Enel SpA and Acciona Energía SA — from operating wind and solar plants, as the Mexican government seeks to concentrate energy in the hands of the state utility.
According to the report, at least 10 photovoltaic and wind-power projects totaling more than 1,500 megawatts have already been built by these foreign companies, and are ready to operate in Mexico. The big problem, though, is that the CRE must still approve the modifications to their permits that would allow them to start operations.
Recently built solar and wind plants are among the hundreds of energy projects that have stalled in Mexico. Earlier this month, Spanish energy company Iberdrola faced hurdles from the CRE, which notified the company that a wind farm already in operation in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato would need a to apply for a new permit to continue operating.
In 2015, the wind farm received a permit to operate in the Villa de Reyes municipality of the state of San Luis Potosí, but after Iberdrola discovered that the land was already leased to a third party, the company moved the plant across the state border to Guanajuato.
Three years ago, Iberdrola applied to modify the permit, but that request was denied in March of this year.