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Insight

Dose of Realism for Solar Power

Wed, 02/19/2014 - 14:45

“In Mexico City, all new commercial buildings with more than 51 employees, are required by law to have 30% of their energy needs provided by solar. This would be a fine start but there is very little enforcement. People know they will not even be fined if they do not obey the law,” states David Mekler, Director General of Heliocol México Solar (Heliocol). Should official support remain lacking, companies like Heliocol may have to use their own reputations and track record to change minds and increase compliance. Mekler explains that, despite being a small enterprise, Heliocol is growing its distribution chain with precisely that goal in mind. Even with eight offices around Mexico, it is tough for the firm’s advice to reach more than a small percentage of the public. However, this nationwide commitment is part of its vision for a greener Mexico. This motivates Heliocol’s team more than focusing only on the industrial sector of one particular city, with a larger immediate market, Mekler explains. “Heliocol wants to convince businesses that using solar thermal will make them more profitable.”

As Chairman of the renewable energy committee of CANACINTRA, a national business chamber dedicated to the evolution of Mexican industry, Mekler saw the committee’s membership grow from four to 140 in three years. While many of these are one-man firms looking to enter the market by selling equipment made in China, the speed and scale of this expansion speaks volumes about growing interest in the sector. No matter their size, Mekler believes these Mexican homegrown companies could maintain an edge in human resources and business practices over foreign counterparts for at least a decade. Looking to the next five years, Heliocol’s growth will be tied to that of the industry. Mekler forecasts that the market could double in size annually, bringing in a lot of competitors. The company’s signature projects, such as installing solar thermal heaters for low-income households, have brought it this far. But with expansion now firmly on the cards, its focus will switch from the residential sector to the large-scale solar market while diversifying to 50% thermal and 50% PV in its services portfolio.