Global biomass development panel details Mexico, Nicaragua

By Anna Simet | March 26, 2014

There’s a great deal of biomass power project potential in Mexico, which has abundant feedstocks and a desperate need for cheaper power.

That’s according to Carlos Molina, president of GROSS LLC and a presenter during a global biomass utilization panel at the International Biomass Conference & Expo in Orlando, Fla. Molina outlined Mexico’s current energy portfolio, which consists of about 50,000 MW of power each year from a mix of technologies, mostly thermal and hydro.

Power prices in Mexico are about double what they are in the U.S., Molina said, at 26 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) for residential, 21 cents per kWh for commercial, and 16 cents per kWh for industrial. “The reasons for these high prices are expensive fuels used by CFE (Comisión Federal de Electricidad), and beaurocracy.”

The CFE is a government-owned company that, prior to the passage of a new energy law in 2008, produced all electricity in Mexico. The Renewable Energy Law, which has objectives that include reducing energy costs, increasing efficiency and reducing air pollution, allows private companies to build and operate power plants using renewable sources, Molina said, adding that projections for the Mexican electric sector show an addition of capacity of 4,000 MW per year, and 70 percent will come from private generators.

With the new law changes, in 2013, private companies generated 5,000 MW of renewable energy in Mexico.

Molina says biomass resources in the country are abundant, and include sugar cane bagasse, agave bagasse, coconut and coffee waste, forest residuals, industrial and urban waste, and eucalyptus trees grown on energy plantations.

Benefits to developing biomass project in Mexico including tax reductions, financial aid, low-cost transmission and no import tariffs on equipment, Molina said.

Another presenter on the panel, Viaspace CEO Carl Kukkonen, discussed developing biomass power projects in Nicaragua and said, like Mexico, the country has a need for cheaper power, and cannot handle adding any more intermittent power sources to the grid.

While there aren’t any incentives in Nicaragua, developers do get a tax break for seven years, Kukkonen said.