Hector Olea
Mexican Association of Solar Energy
Expert Contributor

Solar Energy:The Road to a Decentralized National Electric System

By Hector Olea | Wed, 12/23/2020 - 09:00

A few years ago, when renewable energies were first discussed around the world, there was widespread concern about the intermittence in generation capacity, especially when talking about solar energy.

Initially, renewable energy emerged as an alternative that could help reduce the world's dependence on fossil fuels. However, the technology still had a long way to go in terms of its viability as a source that could compete with other methods.

Today, thanks to technological advances in storage, efficiency and cost of solar energy, these concerns have gradually disappeared. At present, the dichotomy of solar energy related to helping the environment or purchasing competitive electricity has been completely eliminated.

Recently, the International Energy Agency (IEA) published its Global Energy Report 2020, which states that solar energy is the cheapest energy in history, costing 20% to 50% less than previously anticipated, and below the costs of any new fossil energy project. 

This is not a new trend. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has also pointed out that the operating costs for solar energy have dropped by 82 percent over the last 10 years and continuebecoming more competitive every year, putting it at an unbeatable position to increase its share by 43 percent by 2040 compared to 2018. In fact, the IEA itself expects renewable energies to overtake coal as the largest energy source by 2025.

Beyond costs, solar energy storage in batteries is also becoming increasingly efficient year after year, turning into a disruptor that increased its popularity in Mexico and the world. This type of renewable energy is considered an efficient and self-sufficient generation alternative, regardless of whether it is day or night.

The viability of battery storage has been a reality in our country since 2018, when Baja California Sur became the first state to host a solar power plant with energy storage: Aura Solar III. 
The capacity of solar energy to provide energy to industrial and commercial consumers through a sustainable and competitive option that is even capable of reducing operating costs has increased its popularity in the country. 

The first large-scale plant in Mexico was inaugurated in 2013, and we have come a long way since then. Mexico has the largest installed capacity in Latin America. It has nearly 70 large-scale solar power plants in 16 states, with a capacity of more than 1,700MW. This expansion has been made possible thanks to the cost reductions already mentioned and to the high irradiation in our territory.

Even though the advances in the solar sector are many, there is still a long way to go. In order for our sector to maintain a growing trend, it is key that it be involved in the strengthening and expansion of the electricity grid, with medium- and long-term goals and visibility. 

Let us remember that Mexico is committed to achieving 35 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2024. Although 25 percent of our electrical grid already operates with these sources, it is necessary to continue working to comply with these agreements.

Without a doubt, solar energy has positioned itself as a great alternative for starting the path toward the decentralization of electricity in Mexico and thus being able to meet the exponential growth of national demand for electricity through orderly, sustainable and above all, competitive electricity supply.

Photo by:   Hector Olea