A growing deficit of electricity in Baja California is affecting the water supply to 60 neighborhoods in Tijuana and requiring 15 companies, including Honeywell, Toyota and Cemex, to operate at reduced capacity during the summer months.
State Infrastructure Minister Karen Postlethwaite Montijo explained that recent high temperatures have created a shortage of power and residents are 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. The use of appliances that require large amounts of energy, such as irons, washing machines and dryers, is discouraged during those hours.
In addition, she said the National Energy Control Center (Cenace) has asked that industries with the highest energy consumption to stop production at peak hours.
Power to the Rio Colorado-Tijuana aqueduct, the state’s largest consumer of electricity, is also being limited, hence the water shortages.
“When we lack energy, (Cenace) turns around and says to large consumers ‘I need you to reduce energy consumption because I have no energy,’ and one of the major consumers is the aqueduct,” state Water Minister Salomón Faz Apodaca said in a Facebook press conference with the governor. “What we are doing is balancing,” Faz explained.
One of the main issues in Baja California is lack of infrastructure. The state requires 3,040 megawatts per year, Postlethwaite explained, yet it only has access to 85.5% of that amount, which it manages to collect by buying California’s excess power. Also, Baja California is not connected to Mexico’s national power grid but to California’s, making it “an energy island,” Postlethwaite said.
And with California in the grips of a brutal heatwave and facing rolling blackouts of its own, there’s not a lot of surplus energy to sell to Mexico.
Every year during the summer months, when temperatures in Mexicali soar to around 50 C and coastal temperatures are also on the rise, Baja California has a deficit that ranges between 400 and 550 megawatts. It’s a recurring situation Governor Jaime Bonilla Valdez says he is determined to fix.
On Thursday, the state opened the bidding process for the construction of a private solar energy plant which would resolve the deficit.
“A project of this magnitude involves an investment of US $200 million, which will not be made by the state but by the business consortium that is the winner of the tender, and which will sell the electricity to the state government at a better price than what we are currently paying,” the governor announced.
The winning bid will be chosen in October and construction is expected to take one year. The plant will supply energy directly to the water system for a contractual period of 30 years.
Currently, Baja California spends around 1 billion pesos (US $45.5 million) on electricity each year just to pump water to Tijuana and Tecate.