Report highlights Mexico’s renewable growth potential

By Anna Simet | May 28, 2015

Mexico has the potential to quadruple its use of renewable energy over the next 15 years, according to a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency.

Modern renewable energy represented 4.4 percent of the country’s total final energy consumption mix in 2010. That number is forecast to reach 10 percent by 2030 at current growth rates, but has potential to increase to 21 percent by 2030, according to the paper, which is the result of a joint effort of IRENA and the Mexican Ministry of Energy.

The report differentiates between “modern” and “traditional” renewables energy use, recognizing some uses of biomass, such as cook stoves, as being traditional. Together, modern and traditional use of renewable energy accounted for accounted for nearly 9 percent of total final energy consumption in Mexico in 2013, 60 percent of which was traditional biomass.

In the electricity sector alone, there is potential to generate up to 46 percent from renewables each year by 2030, or 280 terawatt-hours, the greatest deployment being wind and solar photovoltaic (PV), followed by small and large hydro, geothermal and biomass.

Recent electricity reform has heightened the country’s potential to generate more renewable energy—in  2013, the government removed state utility company CFE’s monopoly on the electricity market and opened it up to private developers. Mexico also has international greenhouse gas reduction pledges and a clean energy power generation target of 40 percent zero or low-emission energy by 2035, and 50 percent by 2050.

In the paper’s calculations, wind and solar PV combined would account for nearly 60 percent of Mexico’s renewable power generation, and 26 percent of total generation in 2030. It identifies biomass and geothermal as some of the least expensive power supply options with significant potential—bioenergy for power generation could amount to around 4 GW of capacity, approximately 1 GW from biomass cofiring in coal plants and 1.8 GW from combined heat and power in the manufacturing industry.

Renewables for heating, cooling and cooking in buildings and industry offer the greatest growth potential, and current, traditional uses would need to be replaced with modern systems. Total biomass consumption in all end-use sectors for heating or as transport fuels could reach 685 petajoules by 2030, representing more than one-third of total renewable energy use.  

The report notes that reaching potential deployment levels “requires policies that take into account Mexico’s major land area, in which demand and supply are often far apart,” and that planning is essential for transmission, expansion and grid integration to accommodate the full range of renewable power technologies.