Friday, June 21, 2024

Opposition warns of power outages; CFE chief says it’s part of ‘a dirty war’

The federal government has rejected claims there will be power outages this summer due to high demand for electricity and policies that make it harder for private companies to enter the Mexican energy market.

The leader of the National Action Party (PAN) in the upper house of Congress said Thursday that there have been at least nine major blackouts due to government “ineptitude” and asserted that there will be more.

“So far in this six-year term [of government], we’ve suffered at least nine massive power outages, and they always look for whom to blame. When it’s not hurricanes, it’s the wind or snowfall. The truth is that the origin is ineptitude,” Senator Julen Rementería said.

“… If every year, the need for more energy grows between 3% and 4% in the country, this has to be covered by energy that is generated in some way,” he said. “But if the Federal Electricity Commission [CFE] doesn’t invest in transmission and generation of energy and if the participation of renewable energy companies is not permitted, we will continue suffering the consequences: more expensive power bills and of course more blackouts,” Rementería said.

The federal government published a new energy policy last year that imposed restrictive measures on the renewable energy sector but it was subsequently suspended by the Supreme Court. President López Obrador, a staunch energy nationalist, is also attempting to overhaul the electricity market to favor the state-owned CFE, but his government is facing stern legal opposition from numerous private companies. In addition, the National Energy Control Center (Cenace) suspended national grid trials last year for renewable energy projects, justifying the decision by saying that the reliability of supply had to be guaranteed during the coronavirus pandemic.

Mexico's Federal Electricity Commission head Manuel Bartlett
Bartlett said that there is a media onslaught against him and the CFE by those who want to hand control of Mexico’s electricity market to foreign companies. File photo

Rementería claimed that more than half of Mexico’s population has been affected by power outages in the 2 1/2 years since the current federal government took office and asserted that a change in energy policy is needed. Almost 2,000 blackouts have affected Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, alone this year, creating water supply water problems in the northern border city.

“What has to be done at the Federal Electricity Commission is to make technical and economic decisions instead of ideological ones,” the PAN senator said. He also stressed the need to have trained experts at the CFE, as well as at the state oil company Pemex and at Cenace, to reactivate auctions for energy generators to sell power to the CFE and to invest in renewable energy.

“Mexican homes need sufficient, cheap and clean energy whose flow is continuous, but for that to happen, we have to correct the course the government is taking … because up until now, they’ve unfortunately got the strategy wrong … and who suffers the consequences is the population of our country.”

Several media outlets published articles on Thursday about the risk of power outages this summer. The newspaper Reforma said “while the government hinders the entry into operation of private generators that produce cheap and clean electricity, the CFE could face blackouts this summer due to the lack of capacity to meet demand.”

Some reports said the CFE could periodically cut power supply to some parts of the country to ensure that the entire electricity system doesn’t collapse due to high demand. It has previously done so on a scheduled, staggered basis to reduce pressure when needed on the national system.

But López Obrador, his communications coordinator Jesús Ramírez and CFE director Manuel Bartlett all rejected the claims that Mexico will suffer blackouts — intentional or otherwise — in the coming months.

Mexico electricity linemen
CFE distribution chief Guillermo Nevárez Elizondo said the state-owned utility is ready to maintain power through adverse weather conditions.

Bartlett claimed Thursday that a “dirty war” against the company he heads is underway.

“We guarantee that the CFE will be at the service of the population and that we’re going to do everything so that there are no outages. We’re all ready,” he said.

“… Stop spending your money on dirty campaigns, you’re not going to achieve anything,” Bartlett said after claiming that unnamed people who want to abolish the CFE and hand control of Mexico’s electricity market to foreign companies are funding a media onslaught against him and the state-owned utility.

“We’re going to rescue the CFE [from what the government calls years of neglect] despite the personal attacks, the lies, the whole campaign paid for by those who want to conserve their dirty tricks,” he said.

CFE distribution chief Guillermo Nevárez Elizondo said there will be no scheduled power outages and provided an assurance that the state-owned utility is prepared to maintain electricity supply in any adverse weather conditions that might occur.

With reports from Infobae, Milenio, Reforma and El Diario 

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