HERMOSILLO, Sonora — A who’s who in renewable and traditional energy generation along the U.S.-Mexico border were told Tuesday that an unprecedented era of innovation, investment and less-expensive energy is in the making and the time for information sharing is now.
The man behind that assessment, Earl Anthony Wayne, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, traveled the 1,200 miles from Mexico City to pass that message on to 250 private sector, government and non-governmental organization attendees at Border Energy Forum XIX.
In an address delivered in both English and Spanish, the ambassador said “the time has come” for interconnections to be built from nation in North, Central and South America to the next and for renewable energies to carry across those borders. The ambassador lauded Mexico for taking the initiative to bring gas to its northern region from Arizona, a strategy that would make energy costs less for northern Mexican households and clean up the atmosphere by replacing generating plants now using bunker oil.
The conference, which serves as a showcase for both pilot programs and successful traditional programs in the four U.S. and six Mexican border states, was held at Hotel Fiesta Americana. This week’s forum, which started Monday and concluded Wednesday, was sponsored by the Texas General Land Office and supplemented by donations from industry and government.
Representatives of several firms spoke of strides they have made to move Mexico toward its ambitious goals of renewable energy use. President Felipe Calderón, who leaves office at the end of is six-year Dec. 1, has pushed for Mexico to be using 30 percent energy from renewable sources by 2020 and 50 percent by 2050. Currently, just 7 percent of Mexico’s energy comes from renewable sources.
Messages from other speakers at the energy forum, included:
• Francisco Acuña, CEO of InTrust Global Investments in Washington, D.C., told of several $20 million to $100 milliion projects in Mexico in which communities were essentially working as shareholders. “Clean energy is the new NAFTA,” he said, referring to the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement made among Canada, Mexico and the U.S.
• Rafael Carmona, promoter of Cleantech Challenge México, a non-profit cultivating start-ups in clean energy, told of its Mexico competition that attracted 1,000 entries to win a first prize of 250,000 pesos (about $20,000). The firm, connected to Silicon Valley’s Green Momentum, produced ideas ranging from alternative uses of avocado pits to cleaning techniques for piers, changes in concrete to allow for water recovery and auto-sharing programs.
• Oscar René Téllez, executive director of Sonora’s Comisión de Ecología y Desarrollo Sustenable Executive (Commission of Ecology and Sustainable Development), announced that the Mexican state’s schools and public buildings will be powered by up to 30 megawatts from a new solar facility.
• Antonio Astiazarán, a federal deputy in Sonora, explained how Energía Sonora, he introduced while running for office, now includes 10,500 families who are essentially equity-holders in a program to reduce electricity costs to residents in his district and may serve as model for other states.
• Javier Fortuna, a member of Sociedad Mexicana de Hidrógeno, provided a history of the use of hydrogen cells in Mexico from the time a hydrogen-powered 1998 Mercedes Benz drove the streets of Mexico City.
• Andrés Bayona Insignares, director at Promotora Energética E3, which delivers compressed natural gas to industrial regions of Mexico with no pipelines, said Mexico’s use of natural gas has the potential to cut energy costs up to 80 percent.
The conference was opened by Sonora Gov. Guillermo Padrés, who announced the state would become host to a solar research and production facility called Centro Mexicano de Innovación en Energía Solar. The center will be staffed by 16 universities in Mexico, plus the University of Arizona; 11 Mexican technological institutes, 15 research facilities and 19 companies including the multinational Spanish corporation Abengoa S.A.
Sonora state invested about $25 million to land the solar facility, Padrés said.
Padrés also signed a letter of intent with Carlos Domenech, president of Sun Edison Corp., based in Belmont, Calif., to establish a 50 megawatt photovoltaic park in Sonora. The project is to provide the state government with its own renewable energy.
And in yet another announcement, the governor said Heliotrop, a French firm, would install high-concentrate photovoltaic cells in a joint $1 million project in Sonora in cooperation with Comisión Federal de Electricidad, Mexico’s national electricity utility.