Where does your Electricity Come From?

Courtesy SENER Mexico

Courtesy SENER Mexico

Oct. 3, 2014 (San Diego) When you use your coffee maker you expect your coffee pot to perk and brew your morning coffee. Few people ask the obvious question: Where does my electricity come from? In San Diego most of our energy is produced domestically, but some, and that percentage will increase, is produced in northern Baja, in Mexico.

This is part of the economic integration between the two countries. It is also part of the energy reform in Mexico that is liberalizing the electrical system. This has allowed for direct investment in the field by American companies. This is particularly the case for Sempra Energy and Intergen, who have invested heavily in the Mexican Energy Sector.

Currently Mexican generating capacity is at 4,000 Megawatts, with about 1000 designated for export. Three of the plants are in the Mexicali Valley. The Geothermal plant, which has been functioning since 1973 and it is considered renewable, generates about 1100 MW. This plant generates power primarily for the Mexican market, but when they have extra, chiefly during the winter months, they export power to the US.

There are two hydroelectric plants in the same valley. The first Thermoelectric plant is owned by Ienova, which is the new name that Sempra has taken in Mexico. This plan was built to export all generated energy to the United States.

The second plant is called La Rosita and it is outside of Mexicalli. The plant is owned by Intergen, and most of it’s power generation is for export. One of the four generators produces power for local consumption.

Both plants were built in the early 2000s and both were looked at as a source for pollution for Imperial. The Government Accounting Office (GAO) looked at these two plants in 2005 and found them to be well within California air standards.

The GAO found that the problem these two plants had was that unlike the United States, the roads leading to these two plants was not paved. Also, they did write that neither Imperial County or Mexicali, have placed air quality control on the top of the agenda.

The Department of Energy, (DOE) did state that the plants may increase asthma due to small particulates. While there is some controversy, the reality is that these two plants are now part of the production network.

A third plant near Rosarito also exports energy to the United States when needed.

Crossing Points and Green Energy:

Currently there are two points where transmission lines cross the border. One is near Tijuana, Mexico, at Otay Mesa. The other is near Imperial. This is where the energy produced in the Valley of Mexicali enters the United States and the American grid. Both are 230 KV lines.

There is a third crossing point that was authorized by the Obama administration, in the far east San Diego County, by the Rumorosa. This was authorized to feed the energy produced by the Sierra Juarez Wing Project directly to the American Grid and the Southern Power link.

There are other crossing points in mostly the state of Texas, that go into the Texas grid. The ones in the Baja- California region, go into the Western Grid.

When the great blackout of 2011 happened back in September of 2011, it was not just San Diego that went dark, or Orange County. Tijuana went dark too, as it was affected by the same surge.

The first phase of the Sierra Juarez Wind Project is already under construction in Mexico, with the first five windmills already operational. These came online in 2010, and while technically not part of the Sierra Juarez, these five units are producing 10 MW, and the energy produced is used for public lighting in Mexico. They were the first wind project in northern Mexico. There are a series of farms in the Gulf of Tehuantepec that are also online. The Sierra Juarez project though, is meant for energy export to the United States.

San Diego Gas and Electric has a power purchase agreement for twenty years. This energy is also eligible for San Diego Gas and Electric, to meet it’s Renewable Portfolio Standard targets. Some observers do not expect this to be the end of energy developed for export in Mexico. This is now a growing field. So next time you turn on your coffee maker, some of that power is not produced in the United States.


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Categories: Energy Policy, Mexico

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