Strong Social Mindset Sets Energy Developer ApartBy Cas Biekmann | Thu, 07/29/2021 - 14:14
Q: How does Pardgen translate its international experience to its project development approach in Mexico?
A: Our partners from around the world and the international projects in Pardgen’s portfolio are our strongest assets. These projects give us knowledge regarding project development and teach us how to solve the problems arising from the changes in the law. They allow us to identify new approaches and ways to make our projects viable. We are developing five projects in different areas in Mexico, with a focus on signing long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs). We hope to have three of these operating in 2021.
Our mission is to develop projects in areas of Mexico that need the energy the most, due to the blackouts they suffer. Pardgen’s projects in the Bajio and the southern area of Mexico not only help the local market by providing extra capacity, they function as support for CFE and CENACE in balancing the grid. What is more, the projects provide benefits to the surrounding communities as well. Our projects have a great impact on society, with a particular focus on the emancipation of women, an issue that is close to my heart. We support local society beyond energy, with health and communications infrastructure.
Q: How important is this social focus for Pardgen’s project development?
A: We believe that the social aspect of a project is crucial to its viability, with only the financial picture being more important. This is not only for permitting reasons. It allows the company to share the benefits of the project with the communities around it. We want to involve these people in the development as much as possible, beyond providing work. We would never choose to develop a project that does not leave a positive impact on the surrounding land, climate or society. Pardgen actively looks for states and municipalities that could benefit from a project and often moves its potential sites to accommodate the people living there.
Q: What benchmarks does the company use to decide which technology it will base its projects on?
A: The technical decisions we make are based on analysis, balancing size and efficiency. Our smallest project in Mexico is 65MW, the largest is 800MW. Pardgen tries to combine technologies to enhance projects because using only solar is becoming less viable in the country. At our combined cycle project, we have implemented technology that ensures it emits less CO2. We are also analyzing whether the use of green hydrogen could make our projects even more efficient or cleaner.
Q: How have PPAs evolved?
A: A sense of fear in the uncertain energy market has changed how clients approach these contracts. We have been analyzing the potential future of the sector to establish contracts that allow clients to have more trust in our projects. Five years ago, it was simple enough to sign a 20-plus year PPA. Now, we need to alter our contracts to ensure the terms remain solid no matter the changes in the sector by building in more provisions that support legal certainty. However, foreign companies entering Mexico have already committed to sustainability goals and will therefore look for a clean energy supply regardless of whether Mexico is boosting renewables or not.
Additionally, more potential off-takers are interested in owning their own energy projects. This is not something Pardgen does because it owns all its assets. We rely on signing PPAs and sell a maximum of 10 percent of the energy on the spot market. C&I companies wanting to own and fully control their energy supply are affecting the concept of PPAs.
Q: How do you assess the level of participation of women within the Mexican energy industry, especially in decision-making positions?
A: With the Coordinating Council of Businesswomen, which I lead, we have two main objectives. Firstly, we need to have more female decision-makers. Initiatives like Voz Experta are important to open discussions and share information to this end. We are also highlighting the expert women working for important energy companies, but entrepreneurs are particularly important to boost female participation in the sector. Less than 6 percent of large foreign energy companies are led by women and below 2 percent are partners or owners, but 25 percent of entrepreneurs in smaller companies focused on energy solutions are women. Linking these companies with the big players will help improve their position in the energy sector and open more doors for women.
Q: What advice would you give companies looking to ensure more women hold executive positions?
A: I would propose five approaches, which can change a company’s mindset to female participation and empower women. Firstly, companies should identify women who have leadership potential that is not yet nourished. By giving them tools and training for soft skills, they become better leaders and start to believe they can obtain executive positions. Personal development is fundamental. Following this, we suggest that women work with schools and universities so that female students in engineering and energy environments can envision their future in an energy company.
Thirdly, companies should consider hiring capable women for important positions if there is no one within the ranks already qualified. This could generate some resistance at first but will eventually completely change the mindset of the company and its employees once these women prove their worth. The fourth step is for women working in power plants to reach out to women in communities. This not only helps women in the community to relate to the company, it also empowers employees. Lastly, the men in the company should bring their daughters to work and listen to their feedback. In Mexican culture, we are not always used to seeing things from a woman’s perspective. By asking young women what they would change or what necessities the office bathroom is missing, for instance, men can suddenly understand what they might have been overlooking.
Parques de Generacion Mexico (Pardgen) is a Mexican company dedicated to the development, construction and operation of clean power generation plants, benefiting the public sector, surrounding communities and large-scale energy users.