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CFE reverses decision to withhold information about power blackout

President instructed utility to make the information public

Under pressure from President López Obrador, the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) has reversed a decision to classify details of a massive blackout in December for two years.

The newspaper El Universal reported last Thursday that its request for access to a public version of the file on the December 28 power outage that affected some 10.3 million customers was rejected. The newspaper said the state-owned company  justified keeping the file under wraps until February 2023 on the grounds that a final ruling about the causes of the blackout has not yet been made.

Making the file public now would be to hand over details that are not yet official, the CFE told El Universal, adding that releasing it could also have an impact on the process to determine the causes of the outage.

A day after El Universal published its report, López Obrador said he had told the CFE to make the file public.

“We have nothing to hide, he who owes nothing fears nothing,” he told his regular news conference on Friday. “… I read the thing about the CFE and there is an instruction for nothing to be reserved.”

In a statement issued on Friday night, the CFE said the decision to reserve the file was made by its transmission division  without the knowledge of the company’s general management.

“For that reason, the decision was overruled. In order to contribute to transparency and access to public information, the CFE has ordered an exhaustive investigation … [into the causes of the blackout] by a team of external specialists and once it’s concluded the corresponding ruling will be released,” the company said.

It didn’t say when it expected the investigation to be completed.

While a major outage two weeks ago was due to an interruption to the natural gas supply caused by freezing weather in Texas, the cause of the December blackout was less clear.

The CFE variously blamed the shutdown of 16 power stations due to transmission line irregularities, a high concentration of renewable energy in the electricity system, court rulings and a wildfire in Tamaulipas.

In the wake of last month’s blackout, the government and the state-owned company have come under pressure to diversify power generation sources and increase storage capacity for both fuels and energy in order to avoid more major outages.

President López Obrador responded by saying that Mexico needs to move toward self-sufficiency in energy sources but he is opposed to fracking, limiting the country’s capacity to access natural gas, and his government is attempting to sideline the renewables sector by legislating to prioritize the injection of CFE-generated coal and gas power into the national grid over that generated by sources such as wind and solar.

Source: El Universal (sp) 

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