Israel Hurtado

Building the Next Generation of Energy Lawyers

By Dalia Maria de León | Sat, 12/21/2019 - 07:00

The Energy Reform unleashed the market’s untapped potential and the electricity sector is leading the industry in securing growth. These opportunities have also opened the door for better-prepared energy professionals to face the challenges this transition has brought with it. “In previous years, the oil and gas industry required more energy lawyers to address the contracts that derived from the licensing rounds. Today, the electricity segment is experiencing faster growth, positioning itself as the sector demanding more legal professionals,” says Israel Hurtado, President of the Mexican Academy of Energy Law (AMDE).

According to Hurtado, AMDE has been fundamental in preparing the next generation of energy lawyers in the country. The academy started organizing an Energy Law Diploma in 2012 together with Escuela Libre de Derecho. Since then, more than 1,000 professionals have participated in this program. “I believe we have a responsibility as the first academic institution to pioneer in this area. Today, there are many programs at other universities, as well as degrees at the master’s level,” says Hurtado. AMDE and Escuela Libre de Derecho are consolidating an energy law specialization and expect to have a master’s program in time.

The demand for energy professionals who understand the evolving market requires more collaboration among universities, Hurtado says. “We are partnering with the National Association of Universities and Higher Education Institutions (ANUIES) to introduce an energy law subject to every bachelor syllabus.” He believes that the demand for energy lawyers will continue for a number of years as companies come to understand the energy model and the schemes in which they can participate. “The decision to become a qualified user, partner with a qualified supplier, work with commercializers, have representation in the market or explore other options like distributed generation should be backed up by legal specialists,” he adds.

To successfully maneuver these priorities, AMDE will consolidate regional chapters across the country to replicate the experience acquired during previous years of offering the Energy Law Diploma in other strategic areas of the sector. To that end, the academy has entered into collaboration agreements with energy clusters. “We are participating closely with Campeche’s energy cluster to bring professors in, exchange information, organize seminars and even revise the state’s energy framework from a legal standpoint,” says Hurtado.

AMDE’s board of directors is also working closely with the federal administration to ensure the correct development of the legal framework inherited from the Energy Reform. “We foresee 2019 as an interesting year because many market schemes have changed,” says Hurtado. AMDE is attentive to how these changes are being structured. Its team is in constant talks with the president of the Energy Commission at the Chamber of Deputies to advise on the matter. “The law firms that are a part of our team contribute their expertise and provide the structure that the energy model needs.”

AMDE also participated with ASOLMEX, AMDE and AME in a transparency study whose results promote industry competitiveness. “We executed a study of the WEM and its recent advancements. The main objective of this study was to gather information about how data, such as marginal local prices, generation costs and levelized generation costs, are managed in other parts of the world,” he says. The model was adapted to the Mexican market and presented to CRE and CENACE to highlight the best international practices and how these can translate to transparent results for every participant involved.

A key question for the industry is whether the auctions will continue but Hurtado says that no matter the outcome, the legal framework permits the sector to continue with the same model. “Instead of organizing auctions for the basic supplier, other market participants could become potential buyers,” he says. “The most important thing is to continue developing projects, mostly in renewables because they are the projects that have reached the lowest prices available. CFE could be removed from this equation but more work on the legal structure is needed to do so.”

Dalia Maria de León Dalia Maria de León Journalist & Industry Analyst