Rogelio Nochebuena

Boutique Consultancy Serves the Energy Industry

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 13:04

A newly opened energy industry means opportunities in infrastructure development. But Rogelio Nochebuena, COO of environmental consultancy SERAM BC, says care must also be taken to minimize the social and environmental impact from these activities. “It is imperative that the locations chosen for the development of renewable-energy projects do not put endangered species — wildlife and vegetation — at risk,” he says. “While desert landscapes are rugged, their environment can be easily disrupted by human activity, entailing negative ecological consequences.” 

Due to its position, high irradiation levels and strong wind generation capabilities, Baja California has become a popular destination for renewable developers. In this jurisdiction, Nochebuena says some problems have arisen pertaining to wind power developments in which the communities were not involved. “Smart developers create conditions in which community members take equity stakes in the projects, however small,” he says. “Not only do they generate a steady extra income but they prevent disruptions and guarantee a smooth development process for projects.”
Another way to mitigate environmental and community issues is to secure the required land and interconnection permits, and to conclude effective environmental impact assessments from the outset, says Nochebuena. “If the steps are followed correctly, financing pours in,” he says. 

One of the biggest issues in Mexico for renewable energy projects is obtaining capital. To address this, SERAM BC entered a strategic partnership with EnCap, a well-established developer in the US, with 600MW of installed capacity. “We created a symbiosis between EnCap’s global knowledge and capital and SERAM BC’s local expertise,” says Nochebuena. This alliance, paired with Baja California’s favorable geography, revealed a niche market for SERAM BC in energy trading between Mexico and the US. “The fact that our northern neighbor’s energy projects can take up to four years to reach operational phase makes energy trading an attractive option.”

Although the consulting firm’s background is in solar power, SERAM BC is not limiting its activities and is in 
talks about potential projects involving wind power, and small hydroelectric and waste-to-energy technologies. “We want to capitalize on our large network of private landowners and ejidatarios so we can be involved in the early stages of these projects, evaluating location and land potential, conducting social and environmental impact assessments and measuring power-line capacity in these particular locations as well as interconnection rights of way,” Nochebuena says.
Over the years, SERAM BC developed a foothold in the educational and agricultural sectors. “The former is particularly strong in Baja California and we help reduce lighting costs by developing solar farms,” Nochebuena explains. “We focused on the latter industry because farms are located far from power lines. Most of these farms use diesel generators, which are expensive.” The cost of these engines can vary between MX$3.2-3.5/kWh, according to Nochebuena. “Using our solutions to generate electricity in situ widens profit margins and makes businesses more competitive.” 

SERAM BC wants to establish itself as a niche player, and a boutique organization in the renewable-energy industry, while simultaneously strengthening Mexico’s supply chain. “We have the expertise and capacity to work across the sector’s different fields. We also want to see more local content in projects,” Nochebuena says. The door to renewable energy is open for business but that also means that big players are coming to collect the fruits of the reform. “The comparative advantage of smaller boutique service players like SERAM BC is our better understanding of Mexico’s market dynamics. We intend to fully capitalize on this asset and generate a positive impact by developing small, medium and even largescale projects through partnerships.”
SERAM BC already had a foothold in Baja California’s energy market prior to the reform, which gives the firm another advantage. “Our network of local partners and associates are deeply embedded with the state's regulatory framework and they maintain amicable relationships with local landowners,” he says. “Every key element for a successful project is already integrated into our business line.”