The Senate has asked the National Water Commission (CONAGUA), the Ministry of Energy (SENER) and CFE to deliver a report on the guidelines, policies, project plans, programs, and other general provisions regarding the exploration and extraction of water for power production, which can be based on geothermal or hydroelectric energy. Earlier this week, Senate members approved the decision, noting that especially geothermal projects will be fundamental in the transition to clean energy sources.
In a press release, the legislators emphasized that there are currently four public geothermal energy projects in operation in Mexico: Cerro Prieto in Baja California, Los Azufres in Michoacán, Los Humeros in Puebla and Tres Vírgenes in Baja California Sur. However, according to the Electricity Sector Works and Investment Program (POISE), there are 14 geothermal projects already operating under tenders and a further 254 considered to be tendered until 2027.
As the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) pointed out in an in-depth 2022 report, Mexico could play a significant role in the development of clean energy generation. In fact, the legislators allude to CFE plans that illustrate geothermal projects in development and demonstrates that many Mexican regions, save for the Yucatán Peninsula, show great potential due because of the significant seismic and volcanic activity present in the country.
Meanwhile, energy experts from the private sector have expressed their concerns regarding President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s efforts to strengthen state-utility CFE, to the possible detriment of privately operated renewable energy projects. To this day, SENER has issued up to 26 permits to explore various geothermal areas and six leases to produce power at geothermal fields. CFE manages 13 of these permits, of which the estimated potential stands between 487 and 1,002MW.
Although Energía a Debate reports that Mexico has approximately 9.6GW of geothermal energy resources, the efforts needed to benefit from that untapped potential have not yet crystallized. In the latest issue of the magazine Perspectivas Energéticas on the website Programa de Energía, Genaro Hiriart, Managing Director, GEOKERI, wrote that of all the water utilized to produce electric energy, only 0.3 percent comes from underground sources. “Promoting the development and use of geothermal energy will be key to reducing gas emissions and generating clean electricity regularly, in coordination with the stability that the National Electricity System [can provide],” stated Hiriart.
Moreover, geothermal projects have not been immune to the various setbacks that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the energy industries. In fact, on Nov. 2021, the International Energy Agency (IEA) reported that geothermal electricity had increased by a mere 2 percent in 2020, leaving this industry well behind development goals required to reach the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 scenario. Therefore, the agency estimates that from now on, geothermal energy generation will need to have a consistent global annual increase of 13 percent between 2021 and 2030, or an average annual capacity expansion of approximately 3.6GW.