Great leap forward near for net metering?

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Mexico’s progress in making greater use of renewable energy sources has long been shackled by regulatory restrictions on independent energy generation by private enterprises and citizens.  This, of course, has much to do with the histrionics of political sectors that oppose energy reform for reasons wholly unrelated to energy, but that’s another topic.  It’s a fundamental problem of, as we say in Mexico, “ni picha, ni cacha, ni deja batear.”  The resources of the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) are far too stretched to finance a wide range of innovative alternative generation projects, particularly at the micro level, but regulation has largely prevented anyone else from generating electricity, even for their own consumption.  Some furtive steps toward modernization of the regulatory framework fortunately have been taken in recent years.  One such step, introduced almost surreptitiously in 2007, was the Interconnection Contract for Small-Scale Solar Energy Sources, which permitted private generation of up to 10kw for residential use and 30kw for general low tension use.  Although the practical impact of this regulatory innovation was virtually nonexistent, it is significant nonetheless in that it represents Mexico’s first toe-dip in the waters of net metering for private electricity generation.  Now, however, the government has taken another important step forward toward clearing the way for wider use of net metering for private electricity generation.

The Official Gazette (Diario Oficial de la Federación) published on April 8 a new Interconnection Contract for Renewable Energy Sources following its submission by the Energy Regulatory Commission (CRE).  The new contract, which supplants the Interconnection Contract for Small-Scale Solar Energy Sources, represents two important advances: 1) it expands the parameters of allowable independent electricity generation by allowing residential users and small businesses to produce higher volumes of electricity than under the previous net-metering mechanism; and 2) it allows for net-metered independent generation using “renewable sources” of energy rather than limiting the scheme to small scale solar generation.  The new contract also details the methods and procedure for billing and crediting deficits or surpluses once consumption and generation are accounted for.

Expanding the permissible generation methods to include wind, hydro, tidal and other alternative energy sources removes an important constraint from non-governmental energy development.  The step also should help to raise awareness of opportunities for net metering and independent power generation in general in the country, which heretofore has been low, to say the least.   A high profile, friendly promotion campaign to spread awareness and demystify independent generation would be welcome, but we’re not asking for miracles.  For now, the efforts of environmental groups, specialized equipment dealers and early adopters will have to suffice.  But at least we’re moving forward.

For anyone interested in examining the new contract, the details are published here.

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