Jul 042016

A recent Bloomberg analysis highlights Mexico’s “Clean Energy Revolution”. The analysis of Mexico’s electricity sector finds that total energy demand will rise 72% over the next 25 years, from 305,000 GWh in 2015 to 512,000 GWh in 2040, while installed capacity will triple, to around 247 GW.

Fossil fuels are currently the source of 78% of the electricity generated in Mexico, but renewable energy (including hydro-power) will account for 69% by 2040.

According to Bloomberg, the costs of producing wind and solar energy will become fully competitive with electricity from natural gas power stations by 2025.

The report concludes that the renewable energy sector in Mexico represents an enormous investment opportunity, worth up to $186 billion between now and 2040.

The federal government is increasing its investments in research and development of renewable energy sources each year, up to $310 million in 2020, to build more “energy innovation centers” (Cemies). The five existing Cemies focus on geothermal, solar, wind, bioenergy and ocean energy respectively. Two new Cemies will investigate the use of intelligent networks and carbon capture alternatives.

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Jun 132016

Mexico’s national electrical system serves about 97% of all Mexicans. In recent years electrical generation has not been able to keep pace with demand for electricity, which is increasing at about 6% to 7% per year. Attempts to increase private sector investment in energy as a means to keep up with surging demand have met opposition in the Mexican Congress. Under current law, private investors may generate electricity but transmission and distribution are restricted to the Federal Electricity Commission.

Mexico's major power stations. Fig 16-2 of Geo-Mexico; all rights reserved.

Mexico’s major power stations. Fig 16-2 of Geo-Mexico; all rights reserved.

About 30% of Mexico’s total installed electricity generating capacity of 60,000 MW comes from conventional power plants burning oil. Natural gas-fueled power plants account for about 35%, while coal plants contribute about 9%. Altogether, fossil fuel burning facilities account for almost three-quarters of Mexico’s generating capacity.

Many of Mexico’s newer power plants are highly efficient, gas-fired, combined cycle plants which integrate gas and steam turbines. On a per megawatt basis, they are relatively economical to build. Their major disadvantage (equally true for conventional thermo-electric power stations) is that their emissions contribute to air pollution (particularly sulfur dioxide) and global warming. About 25% of Mexico’s annual emissions of carbon dioxide are due to electricity generation.

Hydroelectric power has been important since the early part of the twentieth century. Currently about 22% of the electricity generating capacity is from hydroelectric plants. The largest hydroelectric plants are on the Grijalva River in Chiapas. Other rivers providing significant hydropower are the Balsas, Santiago, Fuerte, Papaloapan and Moctezuma.

Mexico has one nuclear power plant at Laguna Verde in Veracruz, which provides about 2.6% of the nation’s generating capacity. No additional nuclear plants are planned.

Mexico has the world’s second largest geothermal electrical potential, after Indonesia. This resource might be more important in the future but at present it accounts for less than 2.4% of Mexico’s electricity capacity.

The region of Mexico with most potential for wind power is the low-lying and flat Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico where annual wind speeds, at a height of 30m (100 ft) above the ground (the height of modern windmills), average more than 30 kph (19 mph). Despite the success of the windfarms already operating in La Venta (Oaxaca) and Guerrero Negro (Baja California Sur), wind power is responsible for less than 0.05% of all electricity. The government hopes to boost wind power capacity significantly within the next five to ten years.

Most solar power interest is focused not on large scale plants but on small-scale photovoltaic (PV) systems providing electricity in remote rural areas. About 3 million people (3% of the population) live in small or remote settlements not yet connected to the national electricity grid. More than 60,000 PV systems have been installed nationwide, benefiting 250,000 rural inhabitants.

This is an excerpt from chapter 16 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. Buy your copy (Print or ebook) today!

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Feb 112016

Mexico’s state-owned Federal Electricity Commission (Comisión Federal de Electricidad, CFE) has remained the dominant electric utility in Mexico for almost eighty years, even though most Latin American countries ended state monopolies in the 1990s. Now, Mexico’s on-going energy reforms are revamping the CFE behemoth by splitting it into four distinct entities focusing, respectively, on electricity generation, transmission, distribution and commercialization.cfe-619x348

  • Generation: CFE’s total installed capacity is 55,118 MW, coming from 628 generating units in 185 power stations.
  • Transmission: Mexico has 115,400 km of high voltage transmission line.
  • Distribution: CFE currently has 820,602 km of mid- and low-voltage lines, 1910 substations and 1.38 million distribution transformers. Distribution to domestic users is organized via 16 regional units: Baja California, Bajío, Centro Occidente, Centro Oriente, Centro Sur, Centro Norte, Golfo Norte, Jalisco, Noroeste, Norte, Oriente, Peninsular, Sureste, Valle de México Sur, Valle de México Centro and Valle de México Norte.
  • Commercialization: Includes the sales and billing to more than 38 million end-users, as well as the operations of two CFE subsidiaries (CFE Internacional and CFE Energía) involved in international trading.

In related news, Mexico’s energy regulatory body, the Centro Nacional de Control de Energía (CENACE) is introducing a market framework. Long-term energy and capacity Power Purchasing Agreements (PPAs) can now extend 15 years, with guaranteed commercialization of all power produced by each generation unit. This should provide a welcome boost to many renewable energy projects.

Mexico is committed to generating 35% of its energy from renewable sources by 2024. Hydro-electric and geothermal power plants have been important for a long time, and significant solar and wind-energy plants have been added in recent decades. A market system involving tradable Clean Energy Certificates (Certificados de Energías Limpias, CELs) is an integral part of the reforms.

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Potential locations for Green Cities in Mexico

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May 312014

Following on from our look at the feasibility and practicality of establishing sustainable, accessible Green Cities in Mexico, this post seeks to identify the best locations in Mexico for Green Cities based on an analysis of the natural resources of wind, solar and water.

Of the 31 states in Mexico, only ten were evaluated in detail. Twelve were not evaluated due to their current social conflicts. Seven others were not evaluated because of their propensity for hurricanes, and two were not evaluated due to their mountainous terrain, which is not favorable for generating energy from the wind. The remaining ten states were evaluated using maps similar to those in our previous post about Green Cities.


Of the ten states evaluated (see map), two were rated as having the “Best” wind and solar. But, of the two, Tlaxcala has the best overall ratings of wind, solar and moisture. The best locations in Tlaxcala are in the north and northeast areas of the state. Two other states have a wind and solar rating of “Better”, and three are rated “Good.” Three more have a rating of “Poor.” See the summary chart below.

Summary chart of wind, solar, moisture by state:

Summary chart of wind, solar, moisture by state. Individual ratings: 0 = Poor, 1 = Good, 2 = Better, 3 = Best, 4 = Excellent

State Wind Solar Moisture Total
Tlaxcala 3.3 2.0 2.4 7.7
Oaxaca 2.0 2.0 3.1 7.1
Aguascalientes 3.4 2.0 1.0 6.4
Hidalgo 2.1 1.9 1.7 5.7
Zacatecas 2.7 2.0 0.9 5.6
San Luis Potosí 2.6 1.9 1.0 5.5
Guanajuato 2.2 2.0 1.2 5.4
Puebla 1.1 1.8 2.4 5.3
Querétaro 1.4 2.0 1.0 4.4
Durango 1.0 2.3 1.0 4.3



The recommendation is to do additional evaluations on Tlaxcala, Guanajuato, Hidalgo and Oaxaca, all of which have potential areas suitable for a Green City. Aguascalientes, Zacatecas and San Luis Potosí have good wind and solar ratings, but low moisture ratings which could be a problem. But, they could also be acceptable if suitable “Air to Water” technology were available.

May 242014

This guest post, by C.G. Machlan of the fledgling Green City Development Organization, looks at the feasibility and practicality of establishing sustainable, accessible cities in Mexico.

If it is feasible and practical to build wind farms in Mexico then it must also be feasible and practical to build sustainable, accessible Green Cities. Here’s why!

Mexico has sufficient wind and solar resources as indicated by these two maps, of wind resource and solar radiation respectively:


Source: http://www.altestore.com/howto/images/article/Mexico-Wind-Map.jpg


Source: http://www.evwind.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/energia-solar-mexico.jpg

Wind Farms

Mexico has approximately 31 wind farms occupying over 11,000 hectares in 8 states, generating more than 1,300 megawatts (MW) of power for the national grid system. Additional wind farms are in the planning and development stages. These wind farms are needed, and are an important component of efforts to increase Mexico’s electricity-generating capacity. Wind farms are ecologically clean, produce needed electricity for the national grid, reduce Mexico’s carbon footprint, and create some long term jobs.

Green Cities versus Wind Farms

While wind farms contribute to Mexico’s electricity-generating capacity they do little to help the long term employment situation in Mexico. On the other hand, Green Cities can help boost employment. The Green City Feasibility Study looked at 10 Mexican states and identified potential locations having sufficient wind, solar and moisture resources to support a Green City. When built, each city would be able to house an estimated population of 250,000 to 300,000, and could create more than 100,000 new jobs across all sectors. Each city would be totally sustainable as regards electricity, by incorporating vertical and horizontal wind turbines together with solar panels in both residential and non-residential areas.

The Green City Electrical Analysis suggests that a Green City will require 54.6 to 63.3 megawatts daily for an estimated 54,000 houses, and between 288 and 661 MW for the non-residential areas at the projected mean and maximum population levels. This is a similar number of megawatts to the 250 MW produced by the Eurus Wind farm located in Juchitan de Zaragoza, Oaxaca, or the 632 MW, oil fired, Puerto Libertad power plant in Pitiquito, Sonora, but has the very important additional advantage of helping to create more than 100,000 new jobs in each city.

Green City Water Sustainability

Both electricity and water are essential for any city, Green Cities included, to grow and prosper. If Green Cities are located in areas where there is good wind speed/density and sufficient solar radiation to produce the electrical energy required, then the next question becomes, “Is there enough water available?”

Annual precipitation in Mexico (Fig .4.3 of Geo-Mexico)

Annual precipitation in Mexico (Fig .4.3 of Geo-Mexico, the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico) All rights reserved.

The normal rainfall season in many areas of Mexico is from May through September, so Green Cities would need to rely on aquifers as a year-round water source. Mexico has 653 identified aquifers, more than 100 of which are said to be overexploited.

Map of overexploited aquifers and areas of salinization

Overexploited aquifers and areas of salinization (Fig 6-7 of Geo-Mexico; all rights reserved)

Fortunately, Green Cities can be totally water sustainable by:

  • Recycling all wastewater to a quality suitable for potable use.
  • Incorporating “Air to Water” methods to obtain replacement water thus reducing aquifer usage.
  • Designing runoff systems to collect and clean rainfall (stormwater) when it is available.
  • Recharging aquifers, using excess water obtained from stormwater runoff.

The Green City Water Analysis estimates that a typical Green City will consume 71,563 cubic meters of water daily. Of this amount, 48,904 cubic meters will become wastewater requiring treatment. Assuming that 10% of the wastewater is lost during processing, approximately 24,925 cubic meters of replacement water will be needed daily, which must come from an aquifer, rainwater and/or “Air to Water” methods.

Calculations indicate each city could be fully water sustainable if rainwater was efficiently harvested. Assuming 10 cities were built in the various locations identified in the feasibility study (examined in an upcoming post) as much as 128 million cubic meters of water could be available for aquifer recharging each year.

Accessibility for All Individuals

If new cities are to be built it seems logical to make them completely accessible to all individuals so everyone has equal opportunity to live, learn and work. This, too, is possible with Green Cities. All houses and non-residential buildings are designed to be totally accessible, making the cities not only unique in Mexico, but in the world!

In Closing

It is feasible, socially acceptable, and economically practical to build sustainable, accessible Green Cities in Mexico! Green Cities are especially important for Mexico. Like most other emerging and developing countries, Mexico lacks sufficient electricity-generating capacity to promote the industrial growth needed for its population. Building more wind farms can help existing cities (via the national grid) but Green Cities can provide even more long term benefits to the people of Mexico, including as many as 1 million new jobs from the construction of 10 new cities.

The technology is available. Now it requires planning, refinement, cost analysis and implementation. Is Mexico ready? We believe the answer is YES!

[Text submitted by C.G. Machlan, The Green City Development Organization (GCID.org). Mr. Machlan can be contacted via bmachlan@hotmail.com]

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La Yesca HEP station officially opened

 Mexico's geography in the Press, Updates to Geo-Mexico  Comments Off on La Yesca HEP station officially opened
Nov 122012

The La Yesca dam was officially opened last week by President Calderón. According to the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE), at 208.5 meters (684 feet) high, it is the second highest dam of its kind in the world, 22 meters lower than the dam for the Shibuya hydroelectric plant on the Qingjiang River in China.

The dam is located on the Santiago River, on the border between Nayarit and Jalisco, 105 km NW of Guadalajara (Jalisco) and 23 km NW of the town of Hostotipaquillo (Jalisco). This location is north of the towns of Magdalena and Tequila.

La Yesca dam and reservoir

The reservoir has a total capacity of 2.5 billion cubic meters, of which about half can be used for generating HEP. The surface area of the reservoir is 33.4 square kilometers (13 sq mi).

La Yesca is upstream of two other major HEP dams: El Cajón and Aguamilpa, and represents the latest addition to Mexico’s ambitious plan to increase the proportion of its energy needs coming from renewable sources. La Yesca has a total installed capacity of 750 MW, equivalent to about half the total electricity requirements of Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest city.

La Yesca dam

The La Yesca HEP scheme represents an investment of about 1.1 billion dollars and was constructed by a consortium led by Mexican firm Ingenieros Civiles Asociados (ICA). Construction began in September 2007. The Santiago River was temporarily diverted in March 2009, and the first generating unit entered service in October 2012. The second unit will enter service this month. The machine house is on the northern side of the river, and the spillway on the southern side.

The three major dams on the River Santiago help to reduce flooding downstream, while also increasing fishing opportunities. According to a CFE study, fish yields from Aguamilpa, the most accessible of the three major dams, have risen from 33.5 metric tons/yr to 5,000 metric tons/yr since the reservoir was completed.

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The rapid expansion of electricity provision in Mexico

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Dec 092011

In the past two decades, Mexico has made very impressive progress in providing electricity to its citizens, especially those living in rural areas. The 87.5% of Mexicans that had electricity in 1990 lived mostly in cities and towns. Many of the 95.0% that had electricity in 2000 lived in rural areas. The proportion without electricity was cut way down to only 1.8% by 2010.

During the past decade, virtually all those who obtained electricity for the first time lived in rural areas. The gains in some states were very impressive. The proportion without electricity in Oaxaca went from 13% in 2000 to 5% in 2010. In San Luis Potosí and Chiapas it fell from 12% to only 4%. In Veracruz it dropped from 11% to just 3% and in Tabasco it went from 5.8% to only 1.2%.

Postage stamp commemorating the nationalization of Mexico's electricity industry

The states with the highest proportion without electricity in 2010 were Oaxaca (4.93%), Guerrero (4.38%) and Durango (4.19%). At the other end, were the Federal District (0.08%), Nuevo León (0.30%), Coahuila (0.54%) and Colima (0.59%).

Mexico may never be able to provide electricity to 100% of its citizens, since there are too many people living in very remote areas. In about 8% of municipalities (199 of 2456), more than 10% of the people lack electricity. Of these 199 municipalities, 81 are in Oaxaca, which has 570 municipalities, far more than any other state. Many of the other poorly serviced municipalities are in the relatively poor southern states of Guerrero (15), Veracruz (12), Chiapas (9), Puebla (7) and Michoacán (7).

A surprisingly number of these 199 municipalities are in two northern states: Chihuahua with 16 and Durango with 9. In fact, in 14 Chihuahua municipalities, over 25% of the population lack electricity and in 5 of these over 50% do not have electricity. In Durango the situation is only slightly better: in four municipalities over 25% lack electricity and in one of these 66% do not have electricity. These are among the worst-serviced communities in all of Mexico. In the whole country there are only 9 municipalities where over half the residents do not have electricity and 6 of these 9 are in Chihuahua or Durango. These very poorly-serviced areas are sparsely populated municipalities near the Copper Canyon, occupied mostly by the Tarahumara indigenous group.

Though there are sizable pockets of Mexicans that do have electricity, it is very impressive that, as of 2010, over 98% had access to power.

Source for data:

 CONAPO,Índice de marginación por entidad federativa y municipio. 2010” México D.F., October 2011.

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Mexico’s major dams and reservoirs

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Jul 192010

The functions of dams and reservoirs

Mexico’s dams and reservoirs serve many valuable functions. The first is as a source of hydroelectric power. The amount of power that can be generated is a function of the amount of water streaming through the generators and its pressure, which is related to the height of the dam. Just over half of hydroelectric power is generated by dams on rivers which start in southern mountain ranges and flow into the southern portion of the Gulf of Mexico. Most of the rest comes from dams on rivers along the Pacific coast from the Balsas basin all the way north to Sonora.

Postage stamp depicting dam and reservoir

The 50th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution: dam, reservoir and water power.

Hydroelectric power has been important since the early part of the twentieth century. Currently about 22% of the electricity  generating capacity is from hydroelectric plants. The largest hydroelectric plants are on the Grijalva River in Chiapas. Other rivers providing significant hydropower are the Balsas, Santiago, Fuerte, Papaloapan and Moctezuma.

Virtually all Mexican dams, except those in the rainiest southern areas, provide water for irrigated agriculture. This is particularly true in arid northern Mexico. Mexico ranks sixth in the world with about 63,000 cubic kilometers of irrigated agriculture. It is well behind India (558,000), China (546,000), the USA (224,000), Pakistan (182,000) and Iran (76,500). About 23% of Mexico’s cultivated area is irrigated, compared to 99.9% in Egypt, 82% in Pakistan, 47% in China and only 12% in the USA.

Dams also protect against floods, especially in the drier northern areas which are very susceptible to floods from rare but torrential downpours.

In addition, dams provide a source of water for urban populations, especially in the largest metropolitan areas.

Finally, the reservoirs behind dams throughout Mexico are an important recreational resource.

On the other hand, the construction of dams can also have negative effects, including habitat loss, the need to relocate existing residents away from the reservoir site, adverse changes in river flows downstream of the dam and sediment accumulation behind the dam which reduces the reservoir’s capacity.

Chapter 6 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico is about water availability, rivers and aquifers; it includes several maps including one showing the relative sizes of the main reservoirs.