Vitor Rodríguez
Regional Field Manager Solar South America
TÜV Rheinland
View from the Top

Certifying Mexico's Renewable Future

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 15:52

Q: What is your evaluation of energy efficiency policies in Mexico?

A: We are going through a phase where new strategies are being implemented at the continental level. The basis for those strategies is to answer how we will generate energy and electricity from this point forward. We must stop using coal and other fossil fuels. We need to make sure policies and programs are in place to support the penetration of new and renewable energy solutions. The next step would then be to foster efficiency for these new solutions. In renewable energy, the technology, projects and experience components have been increasingly developed in recent years. This means that when you implement a renewable energy project, efficiency criteria usually are already integrated. The concern about efficiency in these matters has more to do with the electric grid and systems that more often than not need to be improved.

Q: How much potential do you see in biomass as an energy source compared to wind and solar?

A: Our main strategy as a company involves PV energy and wind power, so TÜV Rheinland is developing more services in these areas. We have some solutions for biomass regarding product and equipment component certifications. As a third party, normally we intervene to make sure processes are carried out correctly. For us to intervene, structures must already be in place: wind farms, PV parks, thermosolar plants, PV concentrators, among others. In comparison, biomass does not have as many structures for us to work on, with the possible exception of Brazil and bio-ethanol. 

Q: What is the main challenge to developing a certification business in Mexico?

A: When it comes to certifications, one aspect widely recognized is product certification: PV modules or inverters, for example. We do six-level International Protection (IP) testing worldwide, accredited to comply with all the international and major standards, like IEC and UL. In Mexico, we have to separate large-scale from distributed generation. Procured products for use in large-scale energy projects have to meet requirements set out by the project’s owner, the lenders or any other partner that requests certifications. Manufacturers need certified modules and components to participate in largescale projects. 

On the importation side for large-scale projects, Mexico does not yet have the local content capacity to provide for a 300MW project. Most likely, the components would be imported. There is an issue with distributed generation that is worth pointing out because we have seen this repeatedly in other countries. For small distributed generation facilities, importers will buy solar modules abroad and sell them. In this case, many poor-quality modules will be imported because distributed generation projects do not have the resources to implement strict quality-control mechanisms. There is no scheme that forbids you from importing certain types of modules or that imposes strict quality criteria. Our experience tells us the best way to address this is to allow the market that is developing distributed generation programs to simultaneously develop standards, laws and requirements for importing modules. Large-scale projects do not have this problem because project owners who have made sizable investments are averse to risk, including the use of uncertified products or components. 

Q: Have you discussed these regulatory issues with the authorities?

A: We are starting a discussion. We are also trying to use PV solar power associations in Mexico and we are in the process of becoming members of some of them to organize work groups on the subject of standardizing laws for importing parts and components used for solar modules. Drafting laws is not up to us but we can and want to help develop the law’s technical levels by contributing the experience acquired in several countries.