How Can We Filter Coal Out of the Energy Mix?By Cas Biekmann | Tue, 06/02/2020 - 15:43
Mexico’s energy mix is nothing but not diverse but a number of polluting fossil fuels are still prominent. Coal seems rather damaging, as carbon content for coal often reaches more than 60 percent, according to information from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) In Mexico, coal remains a prominent part of its energy mix. In fact, CFE is even planning to invest MX$10.4 million (US$480,000) in coal plants, reported Forbes. MBN experts explain how Mexico could factor out its polluting coal use in favor of cleaner energy.
Why Is Coal Still Prominent?
Information from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), reported by The Guardian, suggests that renewable energy might be cheaper to begin with, as 1,200GW of the world’s coal energy generation could have higher costs than renewable energy options, such as solar. Nonetheless, coal remains a core part of the world’s energy mix. GreenTech Media reported last week that for the first time since 1885, the US had relied more on renewable energy than it had on coal. While this news is encouraging, coal was still only narrowly beaten by renewables.
In Mexico coal proves to be even more resilient. Part of this resilience is the government’s stance on it. Whereas governments such as Denmark are investing heavily to filter out coal from their energy mix, based on a report by Energy Live News, Mexico rejects environmentalist critiques and embraces coal once again. In 2019, Forbes interviewed the President of the Senate’s Energy Commission, Armando Guadiana, who said that Mexico has plenty of coal to produce energy and that Mexico would invest further in the fossil fuel.
Solutions Already Exist
According to data from EIA, coal use in Mexico has been declining since 2011. Raúl Carral, Business Development Executive for Mexico, Central America and Caribbean at Wärtsilä, says “inflexible power generation technologies will be discontinued over time. Coal power plants will diminish significantly,” he said in an interview with MBN.
Some promising solutions involve futuristic technologies, which are difficult to implement for any country, let alone those with developing economies. Combined cycles, which can incorporate clean energy as well, are somewhat uncertain options, said Mitsui CEO Ramón Moreno in an expert opinion for MBN. But one obvious option is already widely used in Mexico: natural gas. Ramón Basanta, CEO of ATCO Energía, considered this a viable optioin during a panel at the Mexico Energy Forum in 2020: "Natural gas is not a zero-emission fuel. However, for Mexico, it is the fuel with the shorter-term impact to reduce emissions," he said. Basanta mentioned green hydrogen would be more attractive toward the future, but that this still had some technological barriers. Hydrogen indeed looks promising and has been marketed by the EU as a key energy source in the future. Its technology, however, still remains in the early stages of development. Therefore, gas remains a good option to fill the gap occupied by burning coal.
Wärtsilä’s Raúl Carral offers solutions as well, with flexible engines filling the gaps left by the intermittency of renewable energy, at least until enough clean energy surplus is generated to start generating synthetic fuel oils, which can then be burned toward a 100 percent renewable energy cycle.