The construction of a new electrical generation plant in Yucatán as promised by President López Obrador is not part of the strategic plan of the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE), according to an energy sector expert.
During a visit to Mérida on Saturday, López Obrador said he had already spoken to CFE director Manuel Bartlett Díaz about his plan and that it had been decided that a new plant will be built in the region “so that there are no more blackouts on the Yucatán peninsula.”
But Santiago Casillas Arzac, a partner at KPA Energy Solutions, said that “as far as we know, the CFE’s generation capacity expansion program includes the opening of six plants in the country, none of which are in Yucatán.”
The six locations where the CFE has plans to build new combined-cycle power plants are Tuxpan, Veracruz; Salamanca, Guanajuato; San Luis Río Colorado, Sonora; Lerdo, Durango; Baja California Sur; and San Luis Potosí, he said.
Casillas also pointed out that Bartlett has consistently said that to combat the electricity supply shortage on the Yucatán peninsula – where there have been three major power outages this year – the CFE’s plan is to improve the energy generation capacity of existing plants and to strengthen the electricity-carrying capacity of transmission lines.
The CFE announced in April that it is investing 2 billion pesos (US $104 million) to strengthen the electricity-carrying capacity of transmission lines between Ticul, Yucatán, and Escárcega, Campeche.
Casillas said his company believes that increasing transmission capacity is a viable option to solve the Yucatán peninsula’s power problems.
Jorge García Valladares, national secretary of Fecime, a national confederation of mechanical engineers and electricians, also expressed doubt that López Obrador’s promised power plant will become reality.
“It’s something that’s in limbo. First it has to be seen what kind of fuel it will use because if it’s going to be fuel oil or coal obviously it’s ruled out. It could be natural gas because combined-cycle plants are classified in the energy transition law as efficient energy [sources]. The problem is that we don’t have gas, we’re left with [the question], what comes first the gas or the plant?” he said.
In an interview with the newspaper El Financiero, García asserted that supply of the former must be guaranteed before the latter can be built, adding that if there is insufficient gas for energy generation purposes “we have to take advantage of what we do have, which is sun and wind.”
He acknowledged that electricity supply from renewable energy sources is unpredictable but added that “backup systems” are being developed on the Yucatán peninsula so that “when there is no wind or no light” continuity of service can be guaranteed.
There has been ample debate and concern this year about the availability of energy supply – or lack thereof – on the Yucatán peninsula, and the National Energy Control Center announced last Monday that it intended to declare a state of emergency for the region due to a lack of natural gas to generate energy.
However, it backed away from its warning the next day, stating that there was no foundation for it.
Nevertheless, there is still anger and concern about the future possibility of power outages and natural gas shortages in the region and the effect they will have both on residents and the business sector.