renewable energies are needed to prevent blackouts
Conference entitled Electricity Sector Resilience due to Climate Change. (Photo: iStock)

The consensus was unanimous. According to three academics from the School of Engineering and Sciences at Tecnológico de Monterrey, the Mexican energy sector lacks the capacity to adapt to weather emergencies, which should lead to greater support for renewable energy, whether wind or solar, but this hasn’t happened.

They took part in a virtual conference moderated by Hiram Ortega entitled “Electricity Sector Resilience due to Climate Change”, in which they discussed the case of the blackouts that occurred in Mexico due to the recent frosts in Texas and the subsequent lack of natural gas imported from that state in order to generate electricity in Mexico.

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Putting on the brakes

Armando Rafael Llamas Terrés said that, although the country has made progress in generating more clean energy through hydroelectric and thermoelectric plants, there’s been a lack of support for other types of renewable energy.

“They started putting on the brakes in 2019. We’re moving in the right direction, but not at the right speed, because they (the federal authorities) don’t want private investment in the production of clean energy,” he said.

According to Llamas Terrés, if there’d been greater backing of wind or solar energy, we wouldn’t have been as affected by the lack of gas supply coming from Texas, especially in the north of the country.

Sudden temperature changes in different parts of the world put the resilience of power systems to the test. For example, Texas was not only unable to supply Mexico with natural gas, but also its own population, which also suffered from the blackouts.

However, Aldo Iván Ramírez Orozco clarified that not everything should be attributed to climate change, because the system of planet Earth is too complex to infer a single cause.

“Sometimes, we attribute these alterations to climate change, but short-term changes in the climate are more likely to do with the weather. Climate is something much longer term. In fact, you have to wait much longer to be certain of climate change,” he said.

Ramírez Orozco pointed out that mankind does have an influence on the planet’s climatic conditions. At least, that’s what most specialists on the subject have established.

“97 or 98 percent of scientists say that the anthropogenic contribution of greenhouse gases is what’s causing the changes, so we’re seeing increased levels of climate variability that we hadn’t seen before.”

We shouldn’t rely on Texas

What’s more, Oliver Matthias Probst Oleszewski explained that the neighboring southern US state is also responsible for a high degree of atmospheric pollution due to uncontrolled emissions of methane gas.

“In Texas, there are abandoned wells, bad practices, and a lack of supervision. We’re contributing to climate change by consuming natural gas from Texas,” he said.

Probst Oleszewski said that practically two-thirds of the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) budget is dedicated to power generation projects based on combined cycle natural gas, which should change.

“We need a resilient network to prevent blackouts. We need to invest, update, and modernize the electrical grid,” he concluded.

Thousands of users reported a drop in power supply, particularly in northern Mexico. Compounding matters, this is when many Mexicans continue to work from home because of the Covid-19 emergency. Here’s what we know so far about what happened:

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Cold weather in the United States was a factor

The extreme cold weather that hit the United States, particularly Texas, affected the supply of natural gas to power plants in Mexico and left 4.7 million users without electricity.

Energy problems were unleashed in Texas on February 15, when cold weather, combined with snow and freezing rain, took over a large part of the country.

Mexico is a major consumer of natural gas produced by the United States due to a large deficit in local production.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has said that he wants to reduce the country’s dependence on imported gas and fuels, and is committed to strengthening the CFE and Pemex, the state-owned oil company.

The CFE estimated that the price to continue providing energy will increase by 20 billion pesos, although the commission said that this won’t affect users.

Miguel Reyes, managing director of CFEnergía, reported that the Mexican company consumes 60% of all natural gas that Mexico buys from the United States.