Adelante, Mexico

Adelante, Mexico

Arianna Pescini
The country is planning to build the largest bio-incinerator in Latin America and continues its race to renewables. Amidst projects and investments supported, rare as it is, by the laws of the state

A waste-to-energy plant to turn a problem into an energy resource. The Mexico City government has indeed signed a historic agreement for the construction of a major new generation incinerator, which will convert one-third of the capital's household waste into green energy. The megalopolis, which, excluding the metropolitan area, has 10 million inhabitants, generates 13,000 tons of rubbish every day. The facility, which will be managed by the local subsidiary of the French company Veolia, will handle 1.6 million tons a year, for a revenue of approximately 1 billion dollars: Starting from the combustion (with Co2 controlled emissions) of previously segregated and non-hazardous waste, the heat generated will be used to produce steam, from which electricity will be obtained. An epoch making project, an opportunity for a country that is heading for energy change: "This is certainly a good opportunity for the city and for Mexico," said Cédric Philbert, analyst at the International Energy Agency (IEA). With the growth in population, energy demands and the increased production of waste, waste-to-energy plants allow urban electrical needs to be met, while at the same time ensuring better waste management." The incinerator, which will be inaugurated in 2020, will be the first of its kind in Latin America, and will produce 965,000 Mw/h of electricity per year, destined to power 12 of the city’s subway lines.

According to @IEA Mexico counts 42 wind farms, producing 3527 MW of power; eleven others are under construction

A country on the move

The Mexico City project is just one of the many signs of the transition that is happening in Mexico, although in the country oil and gas still make up much of the available energy mix. Since 2000 energy demand has increased by a quarter, while electricity consumption has doubled (IEA 2016). Per capita energy use, however, is still less than 40 per cent of the average estimated by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD): This means that Mexico would require an energy redistribution, even just to achieve a uniform growth. Meanwhile, the country looks to the future and to the issue of pollution, with a tax on the sale and import of fossil fuels and, second country in the world, ad hoc legislation on renewables and governing the fight against climate change. A change acknowledged by the signing of the Paris accords that, despite the decision to pull out made by its bulky US neighbour, is hardly likely to be questioned or put in doubt by Mexico: "The development of clean sources has many other incentives," says Philbert: "falling costs, an easily accessible, inexhaustible potential, not to mention improvements in air quality and public health. The 2015 Energy Transition Law envisages 35 percent of total electricity obtained from green energies by 2024.

The forecasts speak of an additional 22 GW in wind energy by 2040: The Global Wind Energy Council study says that up to 2000 MW per year will be added over the next five years. Mexico can count 42 wind farms, producing 3527 MW of power; eleven others are under construction

Water, wind, sun

The international agency Irena has confirmed that among the Latin American states, Mexico, together with Brazil and Chile, is among the top ten countries in the world in terms of investments in carbon-free energy solutions (4.1 billions of dollars in 2015). Currently hydroelectric is the country’s most widespread renewable, with 12.5 GW installed in 2016, followed by geothermal. But, according to the IEA, from here to 2040 solar and wind power will make up three quarters of growth in the industry. The sun that shines over the country has a potential of as much as 5000 GW: one only has to think that the Baja California region has annual solar radiation that is more than twice that of Germany. At the end of 2015 installed photovoltaic plants generated 234 MW of power, while in the long run it is estimated that 30 GW will be reached, mostly from solar panels and small network systems. As for wind, the forecasts speak of an additional 22 GW by 2040: The Global Wind Energy Council study says that up to 2000 MW per year will be added over the next five years. Mexico can count 42 wind farms, producing 3527 MW of power; eleven others are under construction. "In short, the situation of renewables in Mexico seems good – the IEA's analyst concludes - and they are on the right track towards achieving their goals. Thanks to the opening up of the market, the auctions for wind- and, aboveall, solar power have drawn very low bids, leading to a drop in prices. Prices that obviously vary depending on the time and place of delivery, but that facilitate the integration of renewables within the Mexican energy mix."