CFE Asks to Reduce Renewables to Ensure Reliability
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CFE Asks to Reduce Renewables to Ensure Reliability

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Cas Biekmann By Cas Biekmann | Journalist and Industry Analyst - Wed, 01/06/2021 - 17:10

State utility CFE says that CENACE, Mexico’s national grid operator, sees itself forced to cut off part of the renewable capacity from the grid to ensure its reliability. Earlier, CFE blamed renewable energy for causing the imbalance that led to the Dec. 28 blackout, which left 10.3 million Mexican citizens without electricity for hours.

CFE had presented a document stating that a fire in a field in the state of Tamaulipas was the culprit for the major blackout. Nevertheless, CFE later retracted the statement after civil protection entities in the state said they were unaware of any fires in the area, El Financiero reported. In his daily press conference, President López Obrador praised the utility for its ability to admit mistakes. “It is a good thing when you can correct mistakes and not fall into complacency. This is a differentiating factor of this government: its ability to always tell the truth,” he said.

Meanwile, CFE’s Communication Director Luis Bravo stated that the network failure happened when energy demand was very low and intermittent wind and solar energy generation very high: up to 28.13 percent, a record high for CFE’s transmission and distribution system. Bravo pointed out that renewable energy requires conventional power generation and lacks the ability to scale its production up and down, necessary to correct mistakes in the system. “As a preventive measure during low demand, CENACE will be forced to take part of the intermittent renewable generation out of operation to ensure the reliability of the national system,” Bravo added.

Bravo argued that many wind and solar farms were concentrated in specific areas of the country without previous planning of how the aging network would support it, such as in the case of Tamaulipas. Since close to 2GW of renewable energy still need to enter the system, according to SENER figures, the risk for instability during low demand would increase. In this case, CENACE would have to limit the capacity at each node, which would lead to lower production from private power producers. “The national system cannot operate with excess intermittent generation and CENACE is obligated by law to limit maximum generation capacity at each node to ensure reliability. This will imply that private generators need to reduce their annual production,” Bravo said.

The current discussion marks another stage in a wider dispute between the government and Mexico’s private energy players that entered the country as a result of the 2014 Energy Reform. Renewable producers argue that issues associated with intermittent renewable energy are unfairly placed above the many advantages they present. Many players therefore urge the government to reconsider its position on renewable energy in Mexico’s mix, imploring to work together to meet climate goals instead. “As a sector, we should hold discussions with CFE about its energy needs and future project developments. The government should try to comply with the climate goals it has set. These objectives will be good for Mexico, both economically, through low energy prices, and environmentally. If the government really wants to make progress in renewables, then this can be a win-win situation for the public and private sectors,” said Fernando Salinas, Managing Director Mexico and Central America of Fotowatio Renewable Ventures, during an MBN interview.

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