CFE Cancels Gunaa Sicarú Wind Farm Contract in OaxacaBy María José Goytia | Wed, 06/08/2022 - 13:48
One of the biggest wind projects in Mexico will not be developed further. The Ministry of Energy (SENER) cancelled the supply contract signed by CFE with the French company Electricité de France (EDF) toward the operation of the Gunaa Sicarú wind farm in the municipality of Unión Hidalgo, located within the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region of Oaxaca.
After five years of struggle by the Zapotec indigenous community of Unión Hidalgo, the Mexican State, acting through CFE, cancelled the electricity supply contract with EDF, which automatically cancelled the wind farm project of Gunna Sicarú, meaning pretty lady in the Zapotec language.
EDF intended to reside the project in an area of 4,700ha of communal lands. Community members denounced what they saw as an “occupation” in various national and international outlets and forums.
With the supply contract cancelled, SENER also notified the second district judge based in San Bartolo Coyotepec, Oaxaca, to conclude the consultation process of the Gunaa Sicarú project. "With this determination, the indigenous consultation promoted by SENER itself was also suspended, as it was left without subject matter," added the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Project (ProDESC) in its press release.
In 2017, the government of Enrique Peña Nieto granted EDF a permit for the construction of the wind farm Gunna Sicarú after the company won a bid during the Second Energy Auction. However, this permit was granted without prior, free and informed consultation, as established by international codes like Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization (ILO). In response, members of the Zapotec community and ProDESC began a legal struggle that ended in international courts.
After five years of legal battles, the community of Union Hidalgo and ProDESC announced that on June 2, 2022, CFE definitively cancelled the electricity supply contract signed with EDF, thus definitively cancelling the Gunaa Sicarú wind mega-project. This wind farm was set to become one of the largest in Latin America, with an estimated annual production of 825.7GWh for 30 years.
"The cancellation of the EDF contracts by SENER and CFE is the product of a convergence of forces and demands for the rights of the Zapotec community of Unión Hidalgo, Oaxaca," said the Zapotec community members, who highlight a “constant violation of human rights and self-determination” over their territory, exemplified by the development of the wind project. The Zapotec community was supported by non-governmental organizations such as ProDESC, Código DH and the Stop EDF Mexique Collective.
Gunaa Sicarú involved the placement of 115 turbines of 2.6MW each and would have had a total installed capacity of between 252 and 300MW via 26 turbines located in La Ventosa, Juchitán, and 89 in Unión Hidalgo, all in the state of Oaxaca. The wind farm also contemplated the construction of a substation and a 230 kV transmission line that would interconnect the wind farm with CFE’s transmission grid.
The cancellation of the electricity supply contracts for this wind farm, meant to become one of the largest in Latin America, represents a major win for Indigenous communities aiming to protect their land in Mexico and Latin America. For renewable energy developers, obtaining the support of local communities is essential. This can be complicated, however, as large-scale industrial projects can create rifts between community members striving to improve their living standard and those wishing to protect their ancestral lands, an issue that may have plagued Gunaa Sicarú’s development, according to a 2021 Bloomberg News report.