Renewables Developer Brings Diversity, Inclusion to SolarBy Cas Biekmann | Tue, 03/02/2021 - 16:45
Q: What would you consider to be Atlas Renewable Energy’s biggest success story in Mexico?
A: Our first operational solar plant, Guajiro, is a great success story for our company. We built this 130MW project in record time. It took us only seven months from the moment we broke ground until we connected the plant, which is a great example of our team’s agility to implement large-scale renewable energy projects. As soon as we acquired the project, we established great communication with the developer and by the time we closed the transaction, the project was ready to be build and construction started right away. The financing process through Bancomext took about five months. After this, the execution of the plant was flawless. We worked with an EPC contractor that had a great deal of experience in Mexico, which helped accelerate the process of construction and we demonstrated the great deal of experience that our team had when it comes to executing solar projects.
Q: How has the company reacted to the government’s energy policies?
A: We have adapted by looking to develop projects with a very strategic mindset, searching for opportunities in the regions where energy is required and locations where projects will not affect CFE’s dispatch and where the interconnection should not create a grid overload. At the same time, Atlas, as a regional platform, has a wider focus that expands to other Latin American markets, so we’ve been considering some opportunities in other countries within Central and South America, including the Colombian market. Our extended team in Mexico has the capability of managing these regional opportunities. We still see Mexico as a large country with a lot of energy demand that should eventually find a proper solution to continue its transition to green energy. Though projects might take longer to complete at the moment, we will remain in the country and continue to develop clean energy projects.
Q: What sets the company’s social approach toward engagement and inclusivity apart from other developers?
A: We have a robust social engagement plan. We would like to see the communities where we operate benefit from what we do. This is also why we want to do more projects in Mexico. Other than provide work, we also try to promote quality education, biodiversity protection and diversity and inclusion practices. Within our projects, we are providing a more socially conscious approach regarding issues like female empowerment in these regions. In a sector traditionally operated by men, particularly during the construction phase, we intend to break the mold and train and get more women involved. One of the characteristics of 2020, and one of its main takeaways, was that it sparked a great deal of awareness regarding existing but unaddressed social issues, and even though, we were already addressing Diversity and Inclusion within our own offices, we decided to take this a step further and started promoting this within our construction sites throughout Latam. For instance, in all our new projects that are under construction, including the ones developed in Mexico, we are training women to occupy more technical jobs at our sites. Our goal is to quadruplicate the amount of women in technical jobs compared to what is currently seen in our industry, with this we aim to make a real difference in these communities as well as to change the paradigms and cultural biases that exist since issues such as gender inequality within the energy sector are still quite evident.
Q: How is the company working to overcome doubts from off-takers when it comes to signing PPAs?
A: Atlas has become an ally for large energy consumers to adquire clean energy in Latin America. We’ve been very successful in doing so in many jurisdictions, finding unique and tailor-made solutions for our clients thanks to a strong reputation and track record. Although the current situation in Mexico is different from other countries where we operate, we still believe that holding an strategic market vision, our transparency and high standards of execution and operation grant us the opportunity to partner with qualified suppliers (QS) and provide clean energy to large energy consumer in the future.
Q: How do you assess the viability of using battery storage in solar projects in 2021?
A: From an economic perspective, we are getting to the point where storage is becoming viable. We are looking at other markets with projects where the COD will take place in two or three years. In Mexico, the technology is already affordable but the regulation is not clear yet. A better regulatory framework is needed for battery storage to work. In the short term, storage will be more viable and available in other jurisdictions.
Q: What is in store for Atlas Renewable Energy in 2021?
A: To complete the sites that are under construction is our top priority for 2021, and we are in a good position to meet this objective. And although, there is uncertainty regarding the energy market in Mexico, we have a more long-term regional outlook, therefore we continue to look for new opportunities to expand our footprint and grow our pipeline in the Americas.
Atlas Renewable Energy develops, builds, finances and operates clean energy projects in Latin America, with 1.7GW of both operational and in-construction projects. It adheres to rigorous standards in the development, construction and operation of large PV projects.