Rodolfo Lacy
Undersecretary for Environmental Policy and Planning
View from the Top

Long-Term Goals Set for Renewable Strategy

Wed, 02/19/2014 - 15:44

Q: How have the goals of SEMARNAT changed under the new administration and in light of the National Development Plan?

A: The National Development Plan seeks to harness natural resources through a new approach known as green development. We aim to achieve sustainable development within a green economy. This means increasing investments for sustainable products and services. We will measure the impact green investments have on GDP and promote the creation of green jobs in renewable energy production. For example, employment opportunities that result from a new wind farm are considered green jobs. If a community decides to build a dam or a mini hydro plant, we have to be able to quantify this effort in economic terms and ensure that the people in charge of these projects are properly established and certified. Projects generating natural gas and those involving the capture and storage of CO2 in the subsoil, are also considered part of a green economy because they close the carbon cycle.

SEMARNAT controls territories such as protected natural areas. However, not all hotels inside these protected areas are certified as sustainable buildings or as green hotels. We want to make sure that investments being made in protected natural areas are sustainable and help fight climate change and pollution. There are also natural areas that foster economic activity, such as agriculture, and we can make these activities entirely green.

Q: What can the government do to reconcile the National General Climate Change Law and the National Energy Strategy while making renewable energy targets clearer?

A: The National Energy Strategy deals with energy democratization, which means every segment of society has access to energy and the chance to generate it for self-consumption. Independence from CFE then becomes possible. On the other hand, the law establishes that renewable energy sources have to comprise 35% of the energy mix by 2024. These renewable energy goals are clearly laid out. The National Climate Change Strategy is fixed for the next six years but the National Energy Strategy (NES) is going to be modified every year. The NES will clarify the role of renewable energy sources as this matter is of great concern for players in the sector. The chapters pertaining to renewable energy are modeled after Germany’s example. This country established a goal of producing 70% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2050 and allows many producers to generate their own power. This is possible because solar energy is already a commodity there. Thanks to the Energy Reform and carbon taxes, Mexico will have better opportunities to work on the supply of renewable energy. Households will also have to generate some electricity, separate their waste, and treat their water. We are trying to change the entire paradigm.

Q: In order to achieve this, what are your objectives for the development of natural gas and renewable energy projects in the coming years?

A: Over the next five years, CFE will have some renewable energy projects but the larger ones will come from the private sector, mostly in wind power. We are more interested in developing the geothermal energy industry, which is seen as a risky endeavor. It requires plenty of exploration, which Mexico has not done yet. We are trying to eliminate the risks linked to geothermal exploration by ensuring that we can count on exploration insurance policies with the support of the Inter-American Development Bank and the Energy Transition Fund. Five years from now, more exploration will have been done and investments will have grown, possibly even surpassing those in the wind sector.

Q: What can SEMARNAT do to help speed up the bureaucratic procedures for renewable energy projects and ensure these comply with environmental requirements?

A: We are developing a single-window scheme. Anyone interested in developing a renewable energy project will be able to do all the paperwork at a single office. We are also preparing a roundtable on environmental impact. We have two important regulations in the environmental sector: the environmental land management regulation and the environmental impact study. The single-window scheme will merge these two regulations to accelerate the permit obtaining process. However, wind energy projects take up to a year, which is something everyone must keep in mind. Any investment in renewable energy is a long-term investment.