Highlights of Mexico Energy Forum 2017
Clean Energy Not a Fad, It’s Good Business
Speaker: Leonardo Beltrán, Deputy Minister of Planning and Energy Transition at the Ministry of Energy
Mexico is committed to producing 50 percent of its energy requirements from clean sources such as solar PV and wind power by 2050, as it becomes increasingly clear that reducing carbon emissions and using clean energy sources is simply good business, Leonardo Beltrán, Deputy Minister of Planning and Energy Transition at the Ministry of Energy, said on Wednesday at the start of Mexico Energy Forum 2017 at the Sheraton Maria Isabel in Mexico City.
“It makes sense to be clean, it makes sense to be sustainable,” Beltrán said during prepared remarks to open the forum. Since the launch of Mexico’s Energy Reform in 2013, the Latin American country has shed a decades-old monopoly in energy generation and distribution and focused on improving the participation of renewable energy sources, culminating in 2016’s electricity generation tenders by the National Energy Commission (CRE).
The areas of transportation and energy generation, heavily dependent on fossil fuels, are the two with the most opportunities to increase their usage of clean power sources, he added. The country also has stated goals to reduce its energy intensity by 1.9 percent yearly from 2016 to 2030, and to accelerate that rate to 3.7 percent every year until 2050, without reducing business activity.
Mexico has a pipeline of around US$130 billion in energy-related investment projects for the next 15 years to diversify its energy matrix and increase efficiency, the government official added.
The country itself has invested some MX$15 billion (around US$700 million) during President Enrique Peña Nieto’s government on research and development of technological developments toward this aim, he said. “This is not just a fad or a government commitment. This a business decision.”
The Ministry of Energy and other government agencies, Beltrán said, are not just handling the regulatory framework needed for Mexico’s energy transformation but also actively working on setting the scaffolding and incentives. The first thing, he said, is the long-term vision and then the legal framework to bring certainty to national and international investors entering the industry.
Judging by the interest shown by international investors so far in the newly liberalized sector, the country is on the right track, Beltrán said. Solar projects in Mexico, for example, are much more competitive in Mexico than in most other latitudes, creating large business opportunities and attracting the attention of international financiers despite the risks involved. And Mexico’s development banking system can also help with reducing the perceived risks, he said.
During a question and answer session after his remarks, Beltrán said that among the projects the government itself is considering to increase its energy diversity is doubling the capacity of Mexico’s Laguna Verde nuclear power plant toward 2030. The plant belongs to Mexico’s former state energy monopoly CFE. But that power source will still see a reduction of its relative contribution to Mexico’s energy generation, he added.
He also mentioned that despite current political changes in the country’s main commercial ally, the US, after the election of President Donald Trump, it still makes sense to continue working toward North America’s energy interconnection. “We will have to see what happens with the US energy policy but without a doubt the North American energy integration is an area of opportunity to Mexico.”
Suddenly, An Avalanche of Options
(In order of appearance, left to right)
Panelist: Martín García, Sustainability Manager of Cinépolis
Panelist: Francis Pérez, Shared Value Creation & Sustainability Director of Nestlé
Moderator: Claudio Rodríguez, Partner at Thompson & Knight
Panelist: Victor Fuentes, Director General of Mexico and LA at Mitsubishi Electric Factory Automation
Panelist: Juan Kuri, VP and Country Manager Mesoamerica of Siemens PLM Software
As the Energy Reform continues evolving, qualified users face an avalanche of options to satisfy their energy consumption requirements, each having its own risks and benefits, which companies now have to evaluate and compare to choose the option that best fits their interests, panelists said on Wednesday at the Mexico Energy Forum 2017 in Mexico City.
“Companies have different options to supply their energy and are often concerned with determining which option fits best for them,” said Claudio Rodríguez, Partner at Thompson & Knight and the panel’s moderator during the event at the Hotel Sheraton Maria Isabel. “Some clients might choose a legacy project with energy surplus, some might venture into the MEM, either alone or with a qualified supplier. The range of possibilities has opened for off-takers.”
One result of the Energy Reform is that off-takers can now purchase power from generators or qualified suppliers, with projects under the new or the previous law. During the panel, “The Energy Factor in Mexico's Industrial Competitiveness,” off-takers and technology suppliers shared their views on the main challenges to successfully select the best option for energy supply and the role that technology has in that process.
For Francis Pérez, Shared Value Creation & Sustainability Director of Nestlé, the cheapest energy is the one not consumed by a company. “Nestlé has invested over MX$1.2 billion (about US$59 million) in process optimization to reduce the environmental impact of our products,” Pérez said. This has been accomplished by exploiting different energy products resulting from the company’s operations, such as heat, as well as the implementation of renewable resources into their processes.
According to Martín García, Sustainability Manager of Cinépolis, the movie-theater chain is betting on renewable energy. Since the company’s energy consumption matches peak electricity demand, the company is using solar distributed generation systems at its theaters in Baja California and Baja California Sur. Solar energy allows Cinépolis to take advantage of power consumption patterns instead of it being a burden because of higher tariffs.
Technology is increasingly playing a role for industrial competitiveness, allowing companies to optimize processes and generate value from the resulting savings, agreed Victor Fuentes, Director General of Mexico and LA at Mitsubishi Electric Factory Automation, and Juan Kuri, VP and Country Manager Mesoamerica of Siemens PLM Software.
“Energy production is vulnerable to the variable costs of commodities such as fossil fuels, so to be more competitive, energy efficiency becomes crucial for companies,” Kuri said. The executives agreed that data-driven technology is the key to optimizing processes and making operations efficient. Industry 4.0 allows remote decision-making both for power generation and energy consumption alike, saving valuable resources and assets and reducing costs.
To be industrially competitive in Mexico companies must also make the most of the opportunities presented by the Energy Reform. All the panelists felt strongly about the government’s role in terms of providing support. “The government has implemented the Energy Reform in record time,” said Rodríguez, the panel moderator. For Cinepolis, the fiscal incentives for solar distributed generation were the key element that motivated them to bring the energy source to their facilities.
An issue of concern for the audience, shared by off-taker panelists, was the uncertainty of the back-up system of qualified suppliers when their main energy generator experiences a system failure. Rodríguez eased those concerns by explaining how the warranty system of qualified suppliers works. “CENACE requires qualified suppliers to have a variety of different sources and generators to back up their contracts in case their main provider fails. Because qualified suppliers are responsible they are the ones who must assume merchant risk, without direct impact to the off-taker,” he said.
Solar Roofs the Next Big Thing in Mexico
Speaker: Guillermo García Alcocer, President Commissioner of the Energy Regulatory Commission (CRE)
Solar roofs and the onset of a growing market for distributed energy generation will become the next big thing in Mexico after the country publishes this week the last rules required to promote smaller scale solar PV in the country, said Guillermo García Alcocer, President Commissioner of the Energy Regulatory Commission (CRE), during his presentation at Mexico Energy Forum 2017 at Mexico City’s Sheraton María Isabel on Wednesday.
“When we meet here again a year from now, we will be discussing solar roofs nonstop,” he said. The government will publish the last regulations needed for this sector to take off on Thursday, García Alcocer added.
The head of the energy watchdog commented about the potential for this sector not only to promote cleaner energy adoption but also to create employment, using the example of the US, where solar has been the source of one in every 50 new jobs created. “There are more jobs in the solar roof installation business in California than in all of that state’s hydrocarbons business.”
García Alcocer foresees that the new rules could provide a big push to the sector, taking the number of solar roof contracts in the country from about 21,000 now to about 286,000 in the next few years. Growth, he said “will be dramatic.” The new rules will allow for shorter times for approval by authorities, and the government is also looking into the possibility of offering government credits both to households and companies to help with the adoption of these systems, he added.
This new development, he said, follows on Mexico’s successful first two energy generation tenders in 2016, where solar technologies offered some of the world’s most competitive prices without requiring subsidies, showing the technology’s maturity. García Alcocer added that current developments in the field of energy storage and batteries, a much needed requirement to reduce the uncertainty related to solar power’s intermittency, are “on the right track.”
Regarding Mexico’s energy security in the middle of the political changes brought about by the new US government, García Alcocer eased worries about a possible cut of natural gas supplies from north of the border, vital for Mexico’s growing manufacturing sector, as he explained that it would be very difficult for US hydrocarbons companies to stop producing gas without bringing their own industry to a halt.
“The reality is that if someone wants to stop producing natural gas in the US they have to stop producing oil, or to start venting gas but no civilized country wants to live under a cloud of burnt gas,” he said. For the US, he added, natural gas exports are a strategic part of the industry.
More of the Same for Third Power Auction
(In order of appearance, left to right)
Panelist: Miguel Barraza, Asset Manager of Acciona Energía México
Panelist: Paolo Romanacci, Director General of Enel Green Power México
Moderator: Jonathan Pinzón, Senior Energy Consultant of Zumma rg + c
Panelist: Darío Febré, Corporate Director of Business Development and Strategy at Engie México
Panelist: Rafael Valdez, Managing Director for Latin America & the Caribbean of Envision
The success of the first two power auctions was down to regulatory clarity and consistency, and this will continue to be a decisive factor as the market prepares for future bidding rounds, a panel of industry leaders agreed Wednesday in Mexico City.
“The efficiency of the whole auction process was the most impressive and important factor,” said Miguel Barraza, Asset Manager of Acciona Energía, during the Mexico Energy Forum 2017 at the Sheraton Maria Isabel. “The big consumers saw the clarity they need to invest during the first two rounds and hopefully this has now set the bar for the future.”
Barraza spoke on the panel entitled “Power Producers Shaping Mexico’s Energy Mix.” He was joined by Paolo Romanacci, Director General of Enel Green Power México, Darío Febré, Corporate Director of Business Development and Strategy at Engie México, Rafael Valdez, Managing Director for Latin America & the Caribbean of Envision. The panel was moderated by Jonathan Pinzón, Senior Energy Consultant of Zumma rg +c.
“It all boils down to stability,” said Romanacci. “Financial and political stability will encourage new players to launch bids, but there also needs to be an assurance that projects will be seen through to the finish line.”
For companies to be able to finance projects, added Romanacci, there needs to be a concerted effort to increase market liquidity to give companies more financing options. This responsibility will fall, as ever, on the banks and other financial institutions but the energy companies also have an important duty to present attractive projects that can bring returns on investment.
“As a community, we must strive to make the energy market in Mexico attractive to the financial institutions, particularly the clearing houses,” said Febré. “This will be decisive not only for the third round but all the future power auctions in the country.”
Despite the presiding optimism brought about by the success of the first two rounds, the panelists had words of caution for the future. Given the drastic changes underway in Mexico, the market will need to be understanding and appreciate that the environment is new and will take time to find its groove.
“The market is not changing,” said Barraza. “The old market is a thing of the past and an entirely new market has been created. It will take time to iron out the cracks. The energy community must appreciate this and be flexible.”
Romanacci was similarly moderate in his outlook for the future, urging the market to learn from the example of Brazil to ensure that the good work done in the past two years is not wasted.
“In many ways Mexico finds itself at a checkpoint,” he said. “Brazil made a very successful reform in 2004, but five years later encountered problems that continue to plague the country today. We need to continue to revise and modify the regulations to avoid falling into the same trap.”
As a new player in the market, Valdez concluded by saying that while he understands the challenges of working in Mexico, his company is encouraged by the country’s proximity to the US market and therefore it plans to stay for the long-term.
“We are investing in storage and energy handling facilities because we are convinced that over the next 40 years Mexico will emerge as the ideal location for energy technology manufacturing and business with the United States,” he said. “Mexico is a vital component for our investment strategy. It has all the ingredients we look for.”
Mexico’s Electricity Spot Market Sees Increasing Interest
Speaker: César Hernández Ochoa, Deputy Minister of Electricity at the Ministry of Energy
Mexico’s still new electricity spot market is attracting increased attention from industry players and could see 11 new participants enter the field in the next months to complement the 15 already doing business in it, Mexico’s Deputy Minister of Electricity at the Ministry of Energy, César Hernández Ochoa, said on Wednesday during his remarks at Mexico Energy Forum 2017 at Mexico City’s Sheraton María Isabel.
“What we are seeing is that the short-term market, launched barely a year ago, has been able to attract top-level companies,” Hernández Ochoa said.
The country’s Energy Reform, which last year brought about the first electricity auctions by the Energy Regulatory Commission (CRE) and record-low prices for solar energy, is also attracting the attention of investors vying to snatch this year’s first energy transmission contract by CFE, with companies from all over the world looking to participate in a tender of a 600km High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) power line from the southern wind power hub of Tehuantepec’s Isthmus to Morelos state in the center of the country, Hernández Ochoa added.
“That is the first of three large projects with investments of about US$1 billion to US$2 billion each that are attracting companies from Canada to the US to China. We have great expectations about these projects,” he said, explaining that a robust transmission network is needed to complement the country’s advances in the diversification of energy generation.
Mexico’s long-term energy auction winners, he added, are committing to the projects won and have been signing their contracts despite the uncertainty brought about by the political changes in the US, showing confidence in the future of the country’s energy industry.
“The winners are putting their money where they put their promises,” he said.
Prying Open the Evolving MEM
(In order of appearance, left to right)
Moderator: Loïc Le Gall, Executive Director Power & Utilities of EY
Panelist: Enrique Giménez, CEO of Fisterra Energy Mexico
Panelist: Katya Somohano, CEO of CFE Calificados
Panelist: Israel Hurtado, Director General of Sumex
Panelist: Francisco Con, Business Development Director of CEMEX Energía
The evolution of the Wholesale Electricity Market (MEM) during the past year presented new challenges and opportunities for users all across the value chain, while creating user awareness of the costs involved, panelists agreed at Mexico Energy Forum 2017 on Wednesday at the Sheraton Maria Isabel in Mexico City.
“The key elements of the Reform were to create consciousness of electricity costs. The Reform allowed the creation of an index to gauge the value of electricity. The reform allows us to understand the figure of a qualified supplier. A good qualified supplier is an interpreter, they must translate technical speed into problem-solving speech,” said Enrique Giménez, Director General of Fisterra Energy Mexico.
Added Katya Somohano, CEO of CFE Calificados: “Customers must be aware of the different costs that constitute the value of the electricity they consume.”
The panel “Wholesale Electricity Market: Energy Trading & Price Dynamics,” moderated by Loïc Le Gall, Executive Director Power & Utilities of EY, discussed the evolution of the MEM, its participants and the challenges to come. The year saw important milestones such as the launching of the spot market and the creation of qualified suppliers.
A recurrent topic among the panel participants was the Regulated Tariff or Basic User Tariff.
“We cannot compete against the official regulated tariff. The challenge for the market is to match regulated tariffs with competitive market tariffs,” said Giménez. He added that there would be no real competition until the regulated tariff reflects market costs.
Francisco Con, Business Development Director of CEMEX Energía, did point out that creating regulations and manuals was not an easy task and that the Mexican authorities did quality work in record time. But he acknowledged the challenges companies like CEMEX face in the new landscape.
“Market participation is complicated because many of us were under the previous regulation. To exploit the many benefits of the MEM we need to partially migrate or restructure contracts,” he said.
Somohano invited her supplier colleagues to achieve better tariffs through efficient energy generation to compete with the basic tariff, especially since transmission and distribution tariffs are not something power producers can control. “CFE Calificados just celebrated its first private auction for the acquisition of 1 million CELs, for which we received over 50 offers with prices below those offered at the two long-term power auctions. The competitiveness of the tariffs suppliers can offer will be determined by their ability to obtain electricity market products,” Somohano said.
The role of qualified suppliers was the other pressing point on the panelists’ agenda. “A supplier is not a magician nor a miracle maker and it is certainly not a generator,” Giménez said. The panelists agreed that to offer a customer the best tariff, they must first understand their customers’ needs to create a tailored solution for them. The great challenge there will be to educate the user and develop a constructive relationship that will the implementation of a tailored process in the most competitive way. “A key element of the Reform is how it allowed consumers to understand the real value of electricity by creating indexed references and creating the qualified supplier as an interpreter between producers and consumers,” said Giménez.
As the first qualified supplier to operate in the MEM, SUMEX offered its insight on how the market functions on a daily basis. Israel Hurtado, SUMEX’s Director General, said the biggest concern is the lack of knowledge about the operation of the MEM, the spot market, the power auctions and the role of the different players such as qualified users, qualified suppliers and generators. Another major concern for him is the entry barriers that hinder competition. He gave the example of metering certification, where the existence of entry barriers and the fact that only selected players can validate metering devices hampers competition. “Barriers could result in a slowdown of the operation of the energy market,” he said.
Solar Energy Here To Stay
(In order of appearance, left to right)
Panelist: Arturo Gómez, Vice President, Project Finance of Buenavista Renewables
Panelist: Héctor Olea, President of Gauss Energía
Moderator: Mariana Jiménez, Senior Industry Analyst & Journalist of Mexico Energy Review
Panelist: Lou Marrero, Director Latin America & the Caribbean of Trina Solar
Panelist: Rodolfo Flores, Country Manager Mexico, CA & Caribbean of DNV GL-Energy
The recent blossoming of Mexico’s solar sector is just the starting point for an industry that has all the attributes required to become a leader in national energy generation, a group of industry leaders agreed Wednesday in Mexico City at the Mexico Energy Forum 2017.
“Just 12 months ago several individuals, including some leading public sector representatives, still thought of solar energy as an expensive resource that was inaccessible for the majority of consumers,” said Héctor Olea, President of Gauss Energía, during a panel discussion focusing on Mexico’s solar energy momentum at the Hotel Sheraton Maria Isabel. “But the power auctions broke that myth and now everyone accepts that solar is one of the most competitive sources of energy. It is not going away anytime soon.”
Olea was joined on the panel by Arturo Gómez, Vice President Project Finance of Buenavista Renewables, Rodolfo Flores, Country Manager Mexico, CA & Caribbean of DNV GL-Energy and Lou Marrero, Director Latin America & the Caribbean of Trina Solar. Mariana Jiménez, Senior Industry Analyst & Journalist of Mexico Energy Review, acted as the moderator.
While the momentum is encouraging, the panelists agreed that much work still needs to be done to ensure the solar market drive does not fizzle out in the coming months. For Gomez, the greatest threat to the participants in the solar market is a lack of education.
“Many companies outside the sector have an energy department but they do not fully understand the opportunity that the reform, the auctions and the new technology represent,” Gomez said. “Alongside customer service, this lack of information is what could hinder the development of solar energy in Mexico.”
Flores echoed Gomez’ concerns but noted that companies with a global presence such as DNV GL-Energy, are making a strong effort to introduce the most successful practices from other countries into Mexico.
“We understand that companies that have never worked in the energy sector will be a step behind more established players when it comes to operations,” he said. “We want to use our experience to support new players and advise them on how to maximize their capacity for storage and distributed generation.”
With the third power auction just around the corner, the panelists were undecided on whether solar prices will rise or fall in the coming months. While Flores and Gomez agreed that the new regulations will encourage technological developments and consequently drive down manufacturing and installation prices, Olea felt that a look at the bigger picture suggests a reversal could be on the horizon.
“The conditions are different now than they were during the first two auctions and I think we might be surprised,” he said. “Macro-economic uncertainty has increased substantially since last year, and this will surely drive prices up. I am optimistic that we can return to the prices of the first auction at least.”
One factor solar can always count on is a low-risk profile when compared to other energy sources such as fossil fuels and even competitive renewable solutions like wind. If investors need to be convinced about the potential of the Mexican market, all they have to do is look at the sky.
“Most of the world’s leading solar markets, like Japan and Germany, have much fewer sunlight hours than Mexico,” said Gomez. “It is the perfect place to develop new technologies.”
Three Pillars to Energy Project Success
(In order of appearance, left to right)
Moderator: José Prado, Partner at Holland & Knight
Panelist: Giacomo Bonfanti, Commercial Director of GDI
Panelist: Jaime Martínez, Business Development Director of ERM
Panelist: Salomon Amkie, VP of Power & Alternative Energy at Citibanamex
Panelist: Enrique Lara, Director of Energy at Banobras
Social management, permit acquisition and industry understanding are consistently recognized by financial institutions, EPC companies and consulting agencies as the key elements that determine the success of an energy project, panelists at the Mexico Energy Forum 2017 said on Wednesday at Mexico City’s Hotel Sheraton Maria Isabel.
“Success factors for energy projects are power generation, technical aspects, proper financial assessment and nontechnical risks. Proper planning is key because prior evaluations might help determine the feasibility of a project at its earliest stages,” said Jaime Martínez, Business Development Director of ERM.
Since project development involves working with different communities and in many cases trespassing their property, Giacomo Bonfanti, Commercial Director of GDI, stressed the importance of maintaining good relations with the community where the project will be developed through proper social management. “A common mistake is to believe the communities’ concerns will only be about money,” Bonfanti said. “But sometimes the value of the land is not just financial.”
ERM’s Martínez, however, reminded his colleagues that companies shouldn’t be afraid of reaching out to communities, saying the positive impact that energy projects can have goes both ways, especially in the case of renewable energy projects. “Developers must involve the community because many times it can contribute and add value to the project,” he suggested.
On the second success factor, permit acquisition, the most outspoken panelists were the representatives of financial institutions, as they are the players most impacted by permits or the lack of them. “Permit acquisition is critical for successful project completion. The requirements at the first two long-term power auctions were not strong enough since owning the permits prior to the bid was not mandatory. That in the end hindered the feasibility of the winning projects and led to uncertainty about their likely success,” said Salomon Amkie, VP of Power & Alternative Energy at Citibanamex.
On that point, the development bank agreed. For Enrique Lara, Director of Energy at Banobras, the offered prices at the auctions generated uncertainty regarding their ROI, thus complicating their financing and risking their construction. One of the main problems he found is the short time period in which companies are obliged to comply with the requirements for the projects they intend to build. For both commercial and development banks, developers need more time to comply with the requirements requested to give certainty to their projects and brand them as feasible.
Toward the end of the panel, moderator José Prado, Partner at Holland & Knight, brought to light a pressing issue for the audience and panelists: US commercial policies toward Mexico. The panelists agreed that given the long-term orientation of energy projects, even if commercial policies do not favor commercial exchange in Mexico, projects will remain competitive. “Projects have to be developed with whoever is president and whoever comes after,” said Prado.
In the short-term, the general concern is the volatility created in financial markets by US President Donald Trump’s statements. “Investment decisions are always long-term oriented. Even though there is a volatility factor it mainly impacts ROI curves and dollar exchange rates, but there are financial structures to mitigate these issues,” said Lara.
But for some, like Martínez, Trump’s policies create an opportunity, as possible capital repatriation can be absorbed by the growing Mexican energy industry. For Amkie, the opportunity lies in the market dynamism that the aura of risk resulting from Trump’s policies is currently generating.
CFE Ready for Competition in New-Look Market
Speaker: Jaime Hernández, Director General of CFE
Mexico’s state-owned electric utility CFE is preparing itself to compete in the market on equal terms with private players as a generator and supplier for the market, even on renewable sources like solar and geothermal, Jaime Hernández, the company’s Director General, said on Wednesday during remarks to close Mexico Energy Forum 2017 at Mexico City’s Sheraton Maria Isabel.
“In this new competitive environment, CFE has the tools to compete successfully in Mexico,” Hernández said. One of the main challenges ahead for the state-owned productive company is to complete the separation of its six different generation subsidiaries as well as its distribution, transmission and supply units, the executive added.
“We want to reach one goal. To continue offering Mexicans a higher quality electricity service at competitive prices and with more environmentally friendly processes,” Hernández said. One of the objectives to achieve that, he mentioned, is the continued reduction of power losses, including widespread energy theft, currently around 12.4 percent per year versus an average for Mexico’s partners in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) of around 6 percent. Also, the company expects to report results in the black in 2016, the first such results in years.
CFE is also looking to attract private capital to help develop its subsidiaries to better compete with each other and the private sector, with an endgame to become profitable in the mid-term. The company is looking for public and private resources to promote an investment program close to MX$250 billion (US$12.3 billion), he added.
Answering a question from the audience, Hernández clarified that Mexico’s sole nuclear power plant, Laguna Verde in Veracruz, with some of the lowest production costs in the country, has been assigned to basic power supply (the subsidized supply for small users) to avoid competition with other companies on qualified supply.
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