For more than a decade, Mexico has been working in the development of electricity generated by wind and solar resources. In 2014, these initiatives were extended to include marine energy exploitation and in 2016 the final agreements for the creation of the Mexican Centre for Innovation on Ocean Energy (CEMIE-Ocean) were reached. This initiative aims to produce collaboration between the Government, academia and industry in scientific research and the applied technology to harness ocean energy and train personnel.
It is hoped that the investigations already carried out will produce successful results now that several tests have been completed and a 1:1 scale model constructed. Two of the major challenges in accelerating the process of marine energy are related to the global price of oil and the lack of environmental regulations. Although, with the new strategies, such as the new CEMIE-Ocean, a long term policy has now begun.
SUPPORTING POLICIES FOR OCEAN ENERGY
The mechanisms for the development of policies, programmes, projects and actions for the use of renewable energies, including ocean energy, are part of the National Strategy for Energetic Transition and Sustainable Energy Usage (ENTEASE), developed in 2011, and are open to annual revision. Heading the National Strategy is the Secretary of Energy (SENER), along with all public sector institutions and the Federal Public Administration aligned with the Energy Transition Law and sustainable energy programmes.
The ENTEASE has three guiding principles: i) guarantee energy supply, ii) efficiency in the economic and productive means of harnessing sustainable energy, and iii) environmental sustainability. The objectives around these principles are intended to ensure efficient, safe and sustainable growth, the evolution of current energy systems to meet energy needs and the economic and social development of Mexico.
The current regulatory framework is based on the Law for the Usage of Renewable Energies and the Financing of the Energetic Transition (LAERFTE). The Regulatory Commission of Energy (CRE) has introduced a specific regulatory framework for renewable energies and published conventions and contracts to regulate the energy generation according to their capacity range, i.e. small (0-10, 0-30 kW), medium (0-500 kW) and large-scale (>500 kW). Regulations concerning connection to the National Electric System have been developed since 2011, controlling the access of renewable energy projects to existent infrastructure.
For ocean energy systems there are currently no specific regulations in Mexico. However, its contribution to the energy sector is regulated by laws related to the usage of these natural resources and those for energy usage, such as the Political Constitution of the United Mexican States, LAERFTE, Law of National Waters, Law for Sustainable Usage of Energy, Organic Law of the Federal Public Administration, and Law of the Regulatory Commission of Energy. In addition, regulations based on international trade and agreements, such as the UN Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol, are adhered to.
Incentives have been introduced by the Mexican Government for the installation of infrastructure and use of renewable energy, including ocean energy in all its forms. Tax reductions (up to 100%) on taxes due on the acquisition of machinery and equipment for the generation/conversion of energy from renewable energy sources. This incentive was established by the Federal Government and is supported in the Law of Income Tax (ISR).
A system of Carbon Credits has been agreed upon by the Federal Commission of Electricity (CFE) and the Mexican Stock Exchange (BMV), an exchange mechanism of carbon offsets. Greenhouse gas emissions will be regulated for each type of industry, so that companies that are able to generate clean energy can sell their carbon credits to capitalize their inversion.
Compensation for the services of renewable energies for which the CRE establishes the amount of the compensation that the CFE will pay for the services given. This allows the entrepreneur to estimate the price that will be paid for each kilowatt produced. Furthermore, the methodology for the price estimation benefits projects with renewable energies.
While these incentives are important for the development and encouragement of the use of renewable energies, further incentives are to be explored to accelerate the growth of this sector.
PUBLIC FUNDING PROGRAMMES
Resources from the public sector are channelled through funding programmes, including:
- The Sectorial Fund CONACYT-SENER for Energy Sustainability to foment scientific research and applied technology, as well as the adoption, innovation, assimilation and technological development of renewable energy, energy efficiency and development of clean technologies;
- The Fund for the Energetic Transition and the Use of Renewable Energies for the financing of projects aligned with the Mexican National Strategy for Energetic Transition;
- The Fund for Projects of Microgeneration and Cogeneration of Electric Energy up to 500 kW finances up to 100% for micro- and cogeneration of electric energy, as well as the acquisition of equipment and systems for use in renewable energy projects;
- Credits for the Productive Public Investment to Municipalities for the development of energy saving projects, for the use of renewable energy and for technological innovation;
- A fund for Technological Development projects which impact in the Market and use Energy Safely and Efficiency for the development of cogeneration projects of up to 500 kW alternative energies.
The main research/development projects are:
- The design of a WEC was completed. Numerical and experimental modelling was carried out and a module was constructed for a wave height range of 0.5-1.5 m with wave periods of 5-7 s, with a potential capacity between 100-200 kW and a cover area of about 50 m2. This device will be installed in 2017 in the port of El Sauzal;
- In 2016, the “Thematic Network of Innovation in Ocean Energy” was created in order to enhance links between the different agents involved in the development/application of technology and for the integration/assimilation of ocean energy.
OPEN SEA TEST SITES
As yet no open sea test site facilities have been fully developed to include grid connection, nor has there been any deployment of sensors for measuring the performance of devices as ocean energy, exploration has only had a serious impulse in recent years.
One open sea test site has been used for small scale, informal research activities, at the Station Unit of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) at Puerto Morelos in Yucatan, South East Mexico. The site facilities have allowed the implementation of small scale prototypes in a safe area where supervision from the Research Institution and the University is easy, as well as the monitoring of the performance of the device.
An open sea test site was designated in 2013, in North-western Mexico, at the port of El Sauzal, close to Ensenada in Baja California, for testing Wave Energy Converters (WECs). The installation site was selected considering the: a) the wave energy potential of the site, b) its proximity to a urban area with the necessary infrastructure for manufacturing, as well as several Research Centres, c) the low probability of extreme waves and hydro-meteorological events (e.g. hur ricanes, storms), d) environmental impacts considering that testing in minimized by existing infrastructure, e) land and sea access points, f) the port provides a sheltered area for the electromechanical components of the devices. Further open sea sites are planned, most of them located on the Mexican Pacific, for which wave, current and tidal energies can
As of 2016, no operational projects have been developed in Mexico in terms of technology demonstration. Existing technology for ocean energy has been developed worldwide but not for Mexican conditions, so that research and applied technology must address national needs.
A mechanism and device to capture wave energy in NW Mexico is being developed as the result of the collaboration between industry (Exclusive High-Tech [DINA]) and academia (Engineering Institute-UNAM). Up to now, the design has been tested with numerical models in order to meet the performance needed for Mexican waters (including extreme events, such as hurricanes), so that, prior to scaling and placement in the ocean, errors are minimized and costs reduced.
The device will be placed close to the facilities of the port El Sauzal, Baja California, with a planned installed capacity of 100-200 kW. Scaling of the device can later produce an installed capacity of 1.0 MW. Tests and laboratory experiments will be conducted during 2017.
The Mexican Centre for Innovation on Ocean Energy (CEMIE-Ocean) will formally start activities at the beginning of 2017. The Centre will co-ordinate the work of 41 Mexican institutions, academies and companies into the research and development of applied technology for the harnessing of ocean energy.
Current and Tidal Energy:
- Resource evaluation, which includes the development of a national atlas of energy potential and socio-economic-environmental studies in regions with most energy potential;
- Regional characterization, which includes the development of the potential of tidal and hydrokinetic energy in the Gulf of California, the design of hydrogen electrolyzers for energy storage, and performance evaluation.
- Wave energy characterization, which includes conceptual WEC design, theoretical and numerical studies and laboratory experiments with small and full scale prototypes. This will be a device designed for Mexican waters where high- efficiency devices are required.
- Resource evaluation, which includes elaborating a national atlas of salinity field to identify sites with exploitation potential and conducting socio-economic-environmental studies in the areas with greatest potential;
- Prototype design will include laboratory materials and techniques and adapting existing national capabilities and resources.
Ocean Thermal Energy:
- Resource evaluation, which will include making a national atlas of temperature fields, carrying out viability studies, monitoring thermal gradients in potential sites with thermistor chains and evaluating efficiency, technical-environmental and socio-economic impacts.
MARINE SPATIAL PLANNING POLICY
Although there is not a clear Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) policy, there are legal instruments to the matters related to the sea.
The existing legal instruments are the following:
• The Mexican Constitution – it points out that individuals and private Mexican companies would be able to use or exploit these resources only through concessions given by the National Executive;
• General Law of National Assets – it regulates all the aspects of the assets that constitute the Nation’s patrimony. It designates marine assets as assets of common use and points out that the special exploitation of them requires a concession, an authorization or permission given in accordance with the conditions and requirements of every corresponding law;
• Federal Law of the Sea – this law is of federal jurisdiction and regulates the marine zones that are part of the national territory;
• Marine Sector Programme 2013-2018 – it specifies the objectives, priorities and policies consistent with the National Plan of Development referring to sea issues;
• Law of National Waters – it regulates the use, utilization or exploitation of national waters, as well as the distribution, use and preservation of its quantity and quality in order to achieve integral sustainable development of them;
• Law on the Use of Renewable Energy and Energy Transition Financing (LAERFTE) – it regulates the renewable energies and clean technologies harnessing to generate electricity with private purposes. Likewise, it stablishes the national strategy for energy transition funding;
• General Law of Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection – it refers to the preservation and restoration of the ecological balance as well as the environmental protection in the national territory and in the zones where the Nation exerts its sovereignty.
Pre-selected areas for ocean energy have not been defined. However some areas have been identified with ocean potential in the national territory. The Secretariat of Energy (SENER) provides this information though the National Inventory of Renewable Energies.
According to the actual legal framework of the marine and energy sectors, the authorities that have the faculty to be involved in the licensing process are:
• Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) – is in charge of promoting the sustainable use and exploitation of the federal marine-terrestrial zone and the sea-lands. It is the governmental authority that has the faculty to give or deny the concessions for the economic utilization of these resources;
• Secretariat of Energy (SENER) – is in charge of the national energy policy;
• National Commission of the Efficient Use of Energy (CONUEE) – is in the technical authority that promotes the energy efficiency and the sustainable use of energy;
• Energy Regulatory Commission (CRE) – is the electricity and hydrocarbons regulator. This governmental entity has the faculty to give or deny permissions to generate electricity;
• Federal Commission of Energy (CFE) – is the government entity that is authorized to generate, conduct, transform, distribute and supply electricity for public service along the national territory;
• National Commission of Water (CONAGUA) – establishes the payment of fees for exploiting the federal waters. Every concessioner has the obligation to pay an established amount in order to ensure its permission to take advantage of the resources;
• Secretariat of Communications and Transport (SCT) – is in charge of supplying safe, efficient and competitive systems of communications and transport.
Due to the fact that marine energy technologies have not been developed in Mexico, there is not a specific process that includes licenses, consents or permits to get permission for project deployment.
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT
An EIA is assessed on a case-by-case basis. The entity responsible for the decision on whether an EIA is required or not is the SEMARNAT, according to the General Law of Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection.
There are three cases in Mexico in which the government, through the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources, requires an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), depending on the control it has on the environmental impacts and the size of the site where the project is planned to be developed, in order to authorize the resources exploitation. The cases are the following: i) preventive report; ii) EIA, particular mode; iii) EIA, regional mode.
The Preventive Report occurs when the activities or works are part of an Urban Development Plan or an Ecological Planning Program previously approved by SEMANART. The EIA particular mode or regional mode are developed when particulars want to carry out some of the activities described in the Article 28th of the General Law of Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection.
It can be inferred from the Mexican Environmental Policy that every Company, Research Center or High Education Institute, who wants to deploy a device in the ocean with the purpose of generating electricity, would have to submit an EIA before deploying it in order to get permission to continue.
LEGISLATION AND REGULATION
Due to the fact that ocean energy is a renewable energy that has not been developed in Mexico, there is not a specific law to regulate it.
Although Mexico has just experimented a relevant change in its energy sector due to the new legislation approved and promulgated on August 11th, 2014, it does not include any regulation oriented to ocean energy and there are no plans, until now, to elaborate such regulation.
In case some private companies, research centers or universities want to start a project to develop one of the ocean energy technologies, they will have to look over the following legal framework:
• Article 27th of the Mexican Constitution;
• General Law of National Assets;
• Federal Law of the Sea;
• Law of Ports;
• Law on the Use of Renewable Energy and Energy Transition Financing (LAERFTE);
• Law of the Electrical Industry;
• Law of Public Service of Electrical Power (LSPEE);
• Law of National Waters;
• General Law of Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection (LGEEPA);
• Ecological Planning Program, that corresponds to the site where the project will be developed;
• Local regulations according to the selected site.
Although these legal instruments mention the opportunity of harnessing ocean energy, as well as the actors that should intervene in the process, they do not serve as a guide to be followed by developers.
In general, consultation is a legal requirement. The Federal Law of Public Consultation establishes, regulates and protects the Mexican citizens’ right to give their opinion about a matter of national importance.
Regarding an ocean energy project, according to the General Law of Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection, the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources will make public the project in the Ecological Gazette when the EIA is submitted.
The Mexican government, in compliance with the Convention No.169 about Indigenous Tribal People, has the obligation to consult Indigenous people.
The National Commission for the Development of Indigenous People is the authority responsible of the consultation process in accordance with the Implementation of Indigenous People and Communities Consultation Protocol. Indigenous opinions against any project can represent a delaying factor or a relevant interruption for the course of the project.
There are informal consultation activities implemented during the license process of other renewable energy projects.