In November, the last ISES Solar World Congress 2013 in Cancún, Mexico, offered a diverse range of topics. With regard to solar thermal energy in Mexico, the most outstanding piece of news was the announcement of a new standard planned by the National Commission for Energy Efficiency, CONUEE. The new standard will be based on the Official Mexican Norm NOM-ENER and could help revive the currently stagnant Mexican solar thermal market. Working out the details of the new standard is scheduled for early 2014.
In November, Mexico was in the spotlight of the international solar community. Between 3 and 7 November, more than 750 scientists, engineers, decision-makers, industry representatives, students and energy specialists from 66 nations around the world met at the conference organised by the International Solar Energy Society (ISES) to share their progress. The Solar World Congress 2013 boasted a large number of issues, including more than 400 technical papers and interactive forums - of which 54 presentations and 53 posters dealt with solar thermal. During the closing ceremony, a proclamation from the congress was read aloud, outlining some of the key outcomes, such as
- Renewable energy (including solar thermal) is now cost-competitive with unsustainable energy throughout the world.
- Renewable energy installations have grown at an average annual rate of 70 percent worldwide.
- Global climate change and national economic security requires transforming energy systems around the world, in order to end the reliance on fossil fuels and other unsustainable energy sources.
The conference also included a special forum on the solar thermal sector in Mexico, under the title: ¿Hacia dónde va el Calentamiento Solar de Agua en México? (Where is the Solar Water Heating Market Heading to in Mexico?). Some key announcements were made during the debate within the forum. Sergio Segura, Director of Promotion and Development at the CONUEE, said that despite the growth of the solar thermal heating market in Mexico, there was still no official compulsory Mexican standard for solar water heater quality. Currently, there are two voluntary and non-compulsory standards, NMX-ES-001-NORMEX (for collectors) and NMX-ES-004-NORMEX (for prefabricated systems). Segura announced that next year, a new compulsory standard would be released as part of the programme Norma Oficial Mexicana de Eficiencia Energética, the Official Mexican Norm NOM-ENER, which is managed by the CONUEE.
Segura said to solarthermalworld.org that the new standard would be based on the voluntary Mexican NMX norms. “It will establish a standard that will regulate the performance and yield of all kinds of solar thermal heaters currently sold in Mexico. It will be a compulsory standard. Any single solar thermal heater that is going to be sold in Mexico will have to comply with the new norm.” According to Segura, the new standard would also take into account international standards, such as ISO and EN.
Implementing the new standard, however, will take time. “First, we will establish a working group, which will start specifying the new norm in early 2014 during the National Program of Standardization (Programa Nacional de Normalización, PNN). Once defined, the standard will have to be passed into law. The entire procedure will take between 1.5 and 2 years,” Segura explained. The director promised to consider all industry players: “To date, industry stakeholders have largely agreed with the CONUEE leading this process. We’re receiving great support from the main sector companies and associations,” Segura said.
The compulsory standard will be the first achievement of the Working Group for Solar Thermal to be created by the CONUEE. The commission is working simultaneously in two other fields to promote solar thermal in Mexico: training, and new economic incentives. Segura, however, said that the details of these supporting schemes still needed to be defined once the CONUEE Working Group was set up in 2014.
Today, Mexico is offering a few incentive schemes for solar water heaters, such as the Hipoteca Verde and FIRCO programme. But these schemes have proven insufficient to spur demand. According to Daniel García, President of industry association Fabricantes Mexicanos en las Energías Renovables (FAMERAC), some 300,000 m2 of collector area, including pool heating, were installed in 2012. He expects that the total number of installed systems will be lower in 2013 than in 2012, at around 270,000 m2. FAMERAC believes that there is an urgent need to specify new incentives and compulsory quality standards in order to grow the Mexican market. According to Segura, the proposed new standard could give an impetus to the currently stagnating solar sector. “It will offer quality guarantees to both consumers and financial institutions. Of course, it’ll help,” he concludes.
Alejandro Diego Rosell is a freelance journalist and consultant specialised in renewable energies and based in Madrid, Spain.