Blackout Still Affects Northern States
Mexican authorities are working to fix the power outage that affected 4.7 million users in the states of Nuevo Leon, Coahuila, Tamaulipas and Chihuahua, after a cold wave in the north of the country froze pipelines and impeded natural gas imports from Texas.
Texas is facing its coldest temperatures in 30 years, according to the US National Weather Service, due to an "arctic outbreak" from the US-Canada border region. The current situation in the US is serious for Mexico because natural gas is the main fuel used for electricity generation in the country, reported BBC.
In 2019, 61 percent of the national electricity was generated using natural gas. In 2020, this was reduced due to the pandemic. However, the rate is increasing once again. According to SENER’s Five-Year Expansion Plan for the Natural Gas Transportation and Storage System 2020-2024, Mexico imports 80 percent of its natural gas and 90 percent of all imports come from the US, reported MBN.
According to CENACE, during the night of Feb. 14 and the early hours of Feb. 15, power plants in the north of the country stopped working due to a lack of natural gas and its frozen infrastructure. Guillermo Nevarez, Senior Executive at CFE, said that 7.1 million users were initially affected by the blackout and by midday, service had been restored for 2.6 million of them.
Miguel Reyes, CFE Senior Executive, explained in a virtual press conference that the Texas Electrical Reliability Council decreed a maximum alert in the state until Feb. 19. "What they are anticipating is that there will be controlled blackouts, they will be addressing energy demands with other technologies. They will even send highly polluting ships to ensure the reliability of the electrical system between Feb. 14 and 19," he said. Reyes explained that the US expects to continue having electricity shortages. Therefore, Mexico cannot depend on its supply.
Reyes announced that to reduce the impact of the natural gas shortage, two gas shipments will arrive in the ports of Manzanillo and Altamira in the coming days. In addition, CENACE has asked the population of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Nuevo Leon, Sinaloa, Sonora and Tamaulipas to reduce their use and consumption of non-priority electricity activities. This will contribute to the security and continuity of the electricity supply.
Reyes emphasized that the blackout was not a problem caused by CFE but by a weather situation in the US. Reyes said that Mexico is highly dependent on US natural gas, which is jeopardizing the country’s energy security in the long and short term, reported El Financiero.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador dismissed accusations that the blackout was caused by a boycott of private generators that oppose his energy plans. Moreover, he said that Mexico has not only been affected by the interruption of gas supply; its price has increased exponentially, as well. According to the CFE, the price of natural gas increased by 5,000 percent, from US$3 per volume unit to more than US$200. López Obrador assured that the government is taking the necessary measures to protect the country and will replace fuel sources if necessary, reported Infobae.
In a press release, CFE announced that it is currently injecting gas into strategic plants in Chihuahua and Nuevo Leon and has made all its energy available to CENACE. It was emphasized that a team in Mexico and the US is working to restore the supply of natural gas. As of this morning, the president announced that electricity power has been restored in the northern states by up to 80 percent.