Mexico Tries to Float Big Dams to Meet Renewables Goal

Renewable energy has been low on the totem pole of priorities in Mexico, particularly because the nation remains an important oil-producer and relies on fossil fuels for 85 percent of its energy consumption. But Alfredo Elías Ayub, the head of Mexico's Federal Electricity Commission, or CFE, recently announced that country would increase its mix of renewables by 23 percent (up from 2 percent of the current mix) by the end of the current administration in 2012. There's a catch, however. The CFE wants to count its 53 big hydroelectric projects and a few others under construction as renewable energy.

Renewable energy advocates have pointed out that this is a questionable strategy. Until now, Mexico's big hydro projects have not been counted as renewable source of energy. And according to Ivan Zea, an analyst with Cambridge Energy Research Associates, nobody in the international renewable energy community counts big hydro because of its environmental impact.Instead, renewable sources are generally defined as wind, geothermal, biogas, solar and micro and mini-hydro. Mini hydro is considered to be between five and 30 megawatts, while micro is 5 megawatts or less.

More big dams, however, are still a preferable alternative to building more oil refineries. But the CFE should also focus on Mexico's biggest opportunity to expand renewable energy sources: wind energy. There is already a plan to add 2,000 megawatts of wind by 2014, much of it in the southern state of Oaxaca, which has some of the greatest wind potential in all of Latin America. :: Via Mural (Spanish link and subscription required)

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