In the face of dwindling hydroelectric production and stagnant wind output, did Mexico’s energy transition backslide in 2023? Indeed it did, as the country increased its reliance on fossil fuels for electricity generation to record levels, reversing recent gains in clean energy usage.
As Mexico’s need for electricity surges, the country’s power firms have significantly ramped up fossil fuel-powered generation in 2023, setting a new precedent in energy production. This shift comes amid a more than 40% decline in hydroelectric power, leading to a 20-year low in hydro output and causing clean energy sources to contribute only 22% to the country’s total electricity mix—a notable decrease from 26% in the previous year.
The energy landscape in Mexico last year was largely dominated by natural gas, which accounted for approximately 57% of the country’s total electricity output. Coal and other fossil fuels, such as diesel and fuel oil, also played substantial roles, generating roughly 7% and 14% of electricity, respectively.
Increased reliance on these sources has had environmental repercussions. Power sector emissions in Mexico escalated by 11% in 2023, releasing over 175 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2)—a level not seen in over half a decade. As Mexico’s manufacturing base continues to expand, primarily serving U.S. consumers, this ascent in emissions is particularly concerning for climate trackers.
The implications of Mexico’s energy choices extend beyond its borders. If the country continues to lean heavily on fossil fuels while industrial output grows, there’s a risk that any decline in emissions achieved by neighboring nations might be negated. Moreover, such trends could subject countries like the United States to criticism over the outsourcing of emissions-intensive industries rather than achieving actual reductions in total pollution levels.
Despite these setbacks, Mexico has set ambitious goals to enhance its renewable energy capacity. By 2030, the government aims to add 30 gigawatts to its clean generation capacity, potentially doubling the current capability. This target aligns with Mexico’s objective to procure 35% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025.
Mexico’s commitment to clean energy growth is evident; since 2018, clean energy generation capacity has increased more rapidly than that of fossil fuels. However, the existing energy infrastructure remains heavily skewed towards fossil sources, which comprise over 60% of total capacity. The persistent expansion of gas-fired power over the past five years suggests that natural gas will continue to be a pivotal source of electricity in the near term.
The trajectory of Mexico’s energy landscape reveals a complex interplay between immediate economic demands and long-term sustainability goals. As the nation works to balance growth with environmental responsibility, the success of its renewable initiatives will determine whether clean energy can eventually outpace fossil fuels as the mainstay of Mexico’s rapidly evolving economy.
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