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News Article

10.3 Million Without Electricity After Major Outage

By Cas Biekmann | Tue, 12/29/2020 - 14:39

A major electricity outage left 10.3 million users without electricity for up to two hours, Mexico’s state utility CFE reported yesterday, after identifying an imbalance between load and power generation. Hospitals and drinking water supply areas remained unaffected.

Said imbalance meant Mexico’s power network lost 7,500MW, said CENACE, which activated automated protection schemes to prevent further damage. As a result, people in 12 states in the center, west and northeast of the country, including the capital, were affected. Power was restored at 4:12 p.m. for all users. During his morning conference, President López Obrador assured the public that the issue would not occur again, pointing out the government’s efforts to rescue CFE.

Two transmission lines between substations in Lajas and Güémez went out of service due to oscillations in the electricity system. This caused the system frequency to increase by 61.8Hz, leading to 16 renewable power plants to go out of operation: 1,714MW of solar and 877MW of wind, for an overall total of 9,262MW. This created an imbalance strong enough to activate the protection system to avoid a general blackout.

Head of CFE, Manuel Bartlett, said the company will run a simulation model to find the origins of the imbalance, allowing the utility to determine how many conventional and intermittent power generation systems the grid can handle. The intermittent nature of renewable energy and the problem this poses to CFE has been often cited by the government. On the other side, renewable developers stress the benefits renewable energy can bring to the country, which translate to cheap energy prices and a sustainable environment.

“The real bottleneck is in the transmission lines. If this is not fixed, we will never be able to fully transition toward renewable energy,” said Ramón Basanta, CEO of ATCO Energía, in an interview with MBN earlier this year. However, Hans-Joachim Kohlsdorf, Founder of Energy to Market, highlights the challenges Mexico faces in initiating large-scale transmission projects. “In many countries, including Mexico, building new transmission lines that run for hundreds of kilometers and cross municipalities and towns is not viable. Getting rights of way to build something that no community wants to see in its "backyard" seems almost impossible. Asking the government to build them or giving sovereign guarantees to the private sector to build them, without facing risks, is utopian and does not take us in the direction of the technological modernization that our national electrical system requires,” Kohlsdorf wrote in a contribution piece for MBN, noting that batteries for backup and enhanced control systems could help stabilize the struggling grid.

The data used in this article was sourced from:  
CFE, Reuters, MBN, El Financiero
Cas Biekmann Cas Biekmann Journalist and Industry Analyst