Queretaro Tackles Sustainability at Central LevelWed, 02/19/2014 - 11:16
Q: What can you tell us about the Sustainable Queretaro project?
A: The Sustainable Queretaro project is an initiative of the Queretaro government that aims to ensure that public policy is formulated with the state’s sustainable growth in mind. Queretaro is one of the largest and most dynamic states in Mexico, with one of the country’s highest GDP growth rates. The Sustainable Queretaro project is the first state level program in Mexico to be focused on controlling the growth of a state and the metropolitan area, and is based on four strategies. The first tackles population and looks to develop infrastructure, social services, security and human rights. The second looks at competitiveness, which can help move us toward a knowledge economy. We have to make a transition towards a service-based economy, especially in information technology and telecommunications. The third strategy is directed toward social policies that address inequality and other problems that exist in the state. The last strategy is environmental and oversees natural resources in Queretaro, education regarding sustainability and the integration of renewable energy.
Q: How can you turn the state’s environmental challenges into economic benefits?
A: We first have to work on our current consumption of natural resources. Right now it costs Queretaro US$300 million to bring water to the metropolitan area. We are also investing a lot in water treatment facilities. With regard to the implementation of renewable energies, we are creating incentives to attract private investment, with the aim of developing a 40MW solar power project across 100 hectares in the Queretaro desert. In Queretaro, the first party interested in solar energy is the government. We are paying around MX$300-400 million (US$22-29 million) a year for energy, so reducing our consumption and costs would be of great benefit to public finances.
Q: What is Queretaro’s energy mix comprised of nowadays?
A: Queretaro generates approximately 10% of the energy that is consumed in the state, which makes the state an energy importer. A lot of the energy consumed in the state comes from hydropower plants near Hidalgo and from a geothermal plant near San Luis Potosi. There is a high demand for energy in Queretaro, and we are not selfsufficient at all.
Q: Besides solar power, what other natural resources could Queretaro use for energy generation?
A: In terms of renewable energy development, our main focus right now is on wind and geothermal power. We could take advantage of two big geothermal hot spots that are close to Queretaro, one of them is near Guanajuato and the other is close to the State of Mexico. Given the shift in technology for wind power, we are also looking to open a few spots with strong wind resources. In addition, we are also starting to review the possibilities of using certain municipalities’ landfills to generate energy from biogas.
Q: How is Queretaro’s academic sector involved in the potential development of the renewable energy industry?
A: Queretaro has a couple of R&D centers that are focused on the renewable energy sector. Those are mostly involved in carrying out research in the wind sector, as well as water management and conservation. There is also a GE R&D center that has been working on hybrid systems for wind and solar.
Q: What goals do you have for the next five years for the Sustainable Queretaro project?
A: In 2011, we carried out an exhaustive study of Queretaro’s energy consumption and carbon footprint, which allowed us to establish very clear benchmarks for what we have to accomplish in the coming years. Our economic goals are very clear. We have to grow our GDP at a yearly rate of 6%, which is the same growth we have had over the past three years, and we have to generate 80,000-90,000 jobs. We have also created social programs through which we are aiming to provide concrete floors, water, light and power to everyone in the state. If we are successful, we will be the first region in all of Latin America to accomplish this. One of our main concerns is education: we need to create renewable energy university programs as well as new environmental programs. We are investing 16% of our budget in public infrastructure and are facing the challenges sustainability brings, but I am sure that we will be successful.