Baja California Governor Jaime Bonilla has accused the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) of abandoning the state as it seeks a solution to its energy crisis.
The governor made the claim as the northern border state faces a growing deficit of electricity, prompting his government to open a bidding process last Thursday for the construction of a private solar energy plant that is expected to cost US $200 million.
Speaking at a press conference in Mexicali, Bonilla said he spoke to federal Energy Minister Rocio Nahle for the first time in two years after his administration launched the seven-week-long tendering process.
The governor said he told the minister that he was pleased that the federal government was finally taking an interest in Baja California’s energy problems.
“Now it turns out that they’re worried because Baja California wants to generate” its own energy, Bonilla said.
The governor, who represents Mexico’s ruling Morena party, added that he told Nahle that she should speak to CFE director Manuel Bartlett about his government’s decision to take it upon itself to solve the state’s energy problems.
(Baja California is not even connected to Mexico’s national power grid, and buys surplus power from the U.S. state of California to supplement locally-generated electricity).
“I think you should speak with Mr. Bartlett with whom we’ve had many discussions,” Bonilla said he told Nahle.
“We’ve asked him to support us and he said there were no resources. So if they [the CFE] cut us adrift, we’re going to seek alternatives; I have an obligation to Baja California regardless of who the president is, that has nothing to do with it.”
The governor said the decision to look for a private company to build a solar energy plant doesn’t amount to a “confrontation” with the federal government but is simply a “position” of the state government.
Bonilla said last week that the company awarded the contract will sell the electricity it generates to the state government at “a better price than what we are currently paying.”
The winning bid will be chosen in October and construction is expected to take one year.
Bonilla had urged state lawmakers to approve the tender process, arguing that the government needed to be able to buy cheaper electricity to power the Rio Colorado-Tijuana aqueduct, the state’s largest consumer of power.
Water supply to 60 neighborhoods in Tijuana has been recently affected by the power deficit problem and some companies in the border region have been told to operate at a reduced capacity in summer months.
Baja California Infrastructure Minister Karen Postlethwaite Montijo said last week that recent high temperatures have created a shortage of power, and residents are being asked to reduce consumption between noon and 10 p.m., unplug appliances, turn off lights and set their air conditioners no lower than 25 C.
She also said the new solar plant will need to generate at least triple the amount of energy the Rio Colorado-Tijuana aqueduct uses to ensure that energy needs are met.
“We’re talking about 270 solar megawatt [hours], the aqueduct consumption is 80 megawatts; to generate it in solar, you have to generate more or less triple … because energy isn’t generated at night. Energy is stored in batteries to use at night,” Postlethwaite said.
The Baja California government said Saturday that three companies have already expressed interest in submitting bids.
Source: Reforma (sp)