|MONTERREY, October 18 - On the first day of the 21st Annual U.S.-Mexico Border Energy Forum, Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson paid tribute to Mexico’s political leaders, saying they showed true leadership in deregulating their country’s energy sector.
On the second day of the forum, state Sen. Bob Worsley, a Republican from Arizona, made similar comments, saying Mexican leaders displayed great courage in enacting reforms that will, in all likelihood, take their nation in a different direction.
“An incredible thing is happening here, and that is why I came to this conference; because I think something very magical is happening in Mexico that Arizona needs to pay attention to,” Worsley said in his speech. He noted that Mexico’s renewable energy portfolio, its energy efficiency standards and its regulatory framework are changing radically.
Asked after his speech to explain his remark about something “magical” happening in Mexico, Worsley told the Guardian: “Something magical is happening here. I wonder how this discussion for 20 years finally culminated in such brave acts of changing things, both oil and gas and electric. It is just incredibly courageous for Mexico to do this and they will see benefits they cannot even imagine today. They will bring outside investment, foreign investment, and the people of Mexico will see prices go in half for their electricity and they will notice that when they see their utility bill.”
Worsley is a member of the Arizona Senate energy and finance committees. He is the only state -legislator – and there are 90 of them – with experience in the energy sector. “I own a power plant, I have a coal plant and a bio-mass plant and I sell power to the two utilities. I have signed inter-connection agreements and transmission agreements. I am registered with FERC (the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) in Washington so I understand the electrical business quite well,” Worsley explained.
“I have started an energy plant from nothing and had to build it and connect it so I know what they are going to go through as these green field projects get built and connected to the grid. It is a very exciting time for Mexico.”
Along with his speech, Worsley made a power point presentation. One slide showed arrows going west to signify major transmission lines taking excess energy from Arizona to California. He said he was “embarrassed” that no such transmission lines go from Arizona to Mexico.
“All the transition lines going into California, I would like to see those arrows turned and come to Mexico, and have interaction between Mexico and Arizona, with all this power that we have built over the years,” Worsley said. In Quebec and British Columbia, we major transition lines going into Canada. We don’t have one major transmission line, over 345 KV, not even one crossing the border into Mexico. That it is a travesty that needs to change with deregulation.”
Asked about these comments later, Worsley told the Guardian: “We have no high-traffic transmission lines going into Mexico. It should look no different to going into British Columbia in terms of the high-traffic transmission lines going into Mexico. We should be helping each other, Arizona and Mexico, when there are service interruptions. For example, if we have extra coal because California does not want it and we still have five years on the life of the plant we could probably sell that power into Mexico very cost-effectively.”
Another key aspect of Worsley’s speech related to the growth of solar power energy in Arizona. He said that in 2003, Arizona was using 4 gigawatts of solar energy. By 2013 that had grown to 128 gigawatts. “Solar power is rapidly accelerating. We are seeing a major shift in power,” he said.
Asked to further elaborate on the growth of solar power in Arizona, Worsley told the Guardian that solar is now as competitive as natural gas: “The utilities are no longer able to say we are not doing solar because it is too expensive. Now, there is no financial reason not to embrace it. The utilities are against it because in a sense you are self-generating and you are not buying power from them. The way net-metering works is they have to give you the same price that you pay. They are basically buying power for ten cents and selling it for ten cents. There is no margin. It does not make for a financial model that works for them.”
Asked if he was on the side of the regulators or the consumers, Worsley said: “I am open to a solution that will work for both. I do not want to see the utilities fail because we need that grid stability and reliability to back up the solar folks. But I also want to see solar rolled out. I think there is probably what we call a capacity payment, some standby payment so the grid is there for you when you have those dips, on a cloudy day. That is important for a homeowner to have reliability. We have to pay something for that.”
In his power point presentation, Worsley showed a slide that put Germany’s use of solar energy at 20 percent. Asked after his speech about Germany, Worsley said: “If you remember, George W. Bush asked Germany to help with the war in Iraq. Everyone knew that some of the initiative for going over there was to keep the oil flowing from the Middle East and not have al-Qaeda disrupt that.
“Germany took a different tack. They said, we are not going to go to war and in fact what we are going to do is spend that money we would have spent in the war effort and we are going to become independent to the degree that we can from Middle East oil. So, they went onto a solar binge and really spent heavily.
“Do they have the weather for it? They don’t. They still decided that PV (photovoltaics) was going to be their thing. They really started the whole solar industry at scale for the first time. Thanks to the Germans a lot of good companies got started, got their prices coming down and now the rest of the world is benefiting even though I do not think Germany is the right place to be doing solar. But they did help us.”
Asked if Arizona made enough solar energy to export some of it, Worsley said: “Absolutely. We have plenty of solar to export.”
Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of four stories about the 21st Annual U.S.-Mexico Border Energy Forum, which was held Oct. 16 and 17 at the InterContinental Presidente Hotel in Monterrey. Click here to read the first story and here to read the second story.