Is Mexican utility CFE entering the solar business?

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Mexico’s Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) and its CEO, Manuel Bartlett, have been widely seen as tough opponents of renewable energy development for years.

“A whole campaign is being made that clean energy is the cheapest and it is a lie,” Bartlett said in March 2019, when he announced plans to review contracts awarded in three renewable energy auctions held by the Mexican government since the introduction of energy reforms in 2015. “The supporters of clean energy should not be worried, as we too are not against it – we are in favor of multiplying clean energy.”

However, just a few weeks earlier, Bartlett had announced that the CFE would not resume renewable energy auctions. “Why should we buy power, if we can produce it?” asked Bartlett. “CFE does not require third-party support. We are doing well, we have strengthened ourselves in the first 100 days of the new administration. The president has given us resources, he has encouraged us and we are very happy … CFE will continue to grow.”

Despite CFE’s plans to increase power production capacity through co-generation, the utility has filed an authorization request to build its own solar projects in the state of Baja California – the Cerro Prieto II and III projects. According to a document that was recently published by Mexico’s Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat), the two plants have a combined of 350 MW. They will be built near Mexicali, the state capital.

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The 150 MW and 200 MW installations will be deployed on the same site as the Cerro Prieto geothermal project, which is owned by the CFE. Thus far, the utility has so far not responded to pv magazine‘s request for more information on the projects and the company’s future solar ambitions.

In mid-2018, CFE revealed plans to introduce new “Amparo” legal provisions against net metering rules for distributed generation. However, it was later forced to scrap them, after the request triggered protests from Mexican entities in the renewable energy sector, including the Asolmex and Anes solar associations.

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