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New Energy World magazine logo
New Energy World magazine logo
ISSN 2753-7757 (Online)

Mexico’s zig-zag path towards the renewable energy transition


8 min read

Silhouetted pylons and transmission lines set against orange sunset sky Photo: Albrect Fietz, Pixabay
Since the election of incumbent President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in December 2018, progress towards net zero in Mexico has largely faltered as his government shifted its focus from renewables back to fossil fuels

Photo: Albrect Fietz, Pixabay

Although Mexico is ideally positioned to become a clean energy powerhouse, since the election of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador it has swerved from significant focus on renewables back to fossil fuels, despite the urgency for energy transition. How did this happen and what are the implications for the future? Charlie Bush, former Senior Editor of New Energy World, explains.

Between 2015 and 2020 Mexico’s coal generation fell 60% – one of the highest rates of reduction in the world. Wind and solar power filled most of the gap left by coal, with only small amounts of gas generation also added. So, by the year the COVID-19 pandemic began, wind and solar made up 10% of Mexico’s electricity mix, exceeding the global average of 9.4% for the first time.


Much of these gains were thanks to reforms enacted by then-President Enrique Peña Nieto, whose term lasted between 2012 and 2018. Notably, in 2014 Nieto signed into law a comprehensive energy reform that enabled much greater private investment into Mexico’s hydrocarbon and electricity sectors. The following year, the Energy Transition Law established an ambitious target of supplying 35% of Mexico’s electricity consumption from clean energy, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).


Mexico was an inviting place for significant investment in renewable energy projects. Three clean energy auctions took place between 2015 and 2017, attracting over $8bn in investments and contracting over 7.4 GW of predominantly solar and wind projects. The North American country has vast potential; research by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) estimates that it could produce some 24,918 GW from solar photovoltaics (PV), 3,669 GW from wind, 2.5 GW from conventional geothermal, and 1.2 GW of additional capacity from existing hydropower facilities.


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