Francisco Barnés
Executive Director
Centro Mario Molina

Green Growth

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 15:23

One knock against going green, some companies insist, is that implementing the available solutions can hamper economic development. Advocates on the environmental side of the ledger, say it is quite possible to have both. They even have a term for it: “green growth.” That phrase has been adopted by the OECD and other institutions in reference to achieving economic advancement while reducing GHG emissions, a target that is at the heart of the Mario Molina Center’s strategy to contribute to the environment’s well-being.

The Mario Molina Center for Strategic Studies on Energy and the Environment is a not-for-profit organization that provides technical analysis to support decision-making processes across all sectors. Its main task is to create consensus and engage decision-makers to ensure the Center’s proposals and research turn into real-world solutions. Within the energy sector, one of the Center’s top missions is to boost the adoption of renewable and clean energy technologies in Mexico, keeping in mind the philosophy of green growth. “We worked closely with the government during the approval of the Energy Transition Law. We studied the feasibility and the potential ways of achieving the country’s clean energy targets while taking into account our heavily oil-reliant economy,” says Francisco Barnés, the Center’s Executive Director.

According to Barnés, the country has only scratched the surface of its renewable energy potential. Even though significant progress was made with the power auctions, Mexico’s promise in this area is much greater. Still, it would be impossible to rely solely on renewable resources due to the country’s growing electricity demand, which is why a combination of fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas will still prevail in the national energy matrix. “We need to diversify the energy mix, including both natural gas and renewable energies,” he says.

With the low cost of natural gas from the US, attributed to a surplus of the fuel there, the hydrocarbon is a viable alternative to more polluting fossil fuels. This presents an opportunity for Mexico, says Barnés. The expansion of the national pipeline network is a step in the right direction. “Mexico is building new pipelines to transport larger amounts of natural gas while developing its own production, which ensures energy security.”

To complement the increased usage of renewable energies, the Mario Molina Center is focusing on energy efficiency, an area it feels still requires a bigger effort. “Even though we have been working on electricity and transport efficiency regulations, we still lack a national energy efficiency goal.” Barnés points out that the country’s Intended National Determined Contribution (INDC), submitted at COP21 in Paris, does not have a specific section on energy efficiency beyond the regulations that have already been mandated.

This is where green growth can play a role. The Center has published over 10 strategies in the last four years targeting energy efficiency in several industries including tourism, construction and automotive. “For example, we are working with the tequila industry to help them implement sustainable practices without interfering with their economic performance.” The future of the power industry, and specifically renewable energy production, must include the government’s involvement across the board. “It should provide a comprehensive regulatory framework that allows the development of such technologies by the private sector,” says Barnés. “However, the government should also be directly involved in renewable energy generation through several state-owned enterprises following CFE’s legal division.”

The remaining challenges are plentiful, Barnés says, but the experience of other countries transitioning to a lowcarbon economy must be an example of what can be accomplished through collaboration and hard work. Policies must be integrated with the right amount of regulation and financing, research must identify market gaps and develop ways of brigding them, technology developers must continue researching to make green tools cost-efficient and power companies must seek to integrate sustainability into their whole business strategy. If everyone contributes, the Mexican economy itself can soon be an iconic example of green growth.