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New president in Mexico to accelerate the energy transition

Originally published: The Bullet on June 14, 2024 by Trade Unions for Energy Democracy (TUED) (more by The Bullet) (Posted Jun 17, 2024)

Claudia Sheinbaum’s resounding victory in Mexico’s presidential election on June 2nd, 2024, has been welcomed by two of the country’s main energy unions, UNTyPP and SME.

During her campaign Sheinbaum, a climate scientist with a Ph.D. in energy engineering from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), made 6 energy and climate-related commitments (see here, and below). “We are,” she said recently, “going to accelerate the energy transition” within a framework of energy sovereignty.


Her predecessor, outgoing president Andrés Manuel López Obrador (known as AMLO) took several measures aimed at regaining control over Mexico’s energy system, including slamming the brakes on the push for power sector privatisation made by previous neoliberal governments. Despite criticism from business and environmental groups, as well as the Biden Administration, AMLO insisted his MORENA government was “not against clean energy. We are against dirty business,” referring to lucrative power purchase agreements extended to private renewable energy companies that undermined both the role and the financial stability of the national power utility, CFE. Earlier this year the government completed its $6.2-billion acquisition of 13 power generation plants, mainly gas-fired combined cycle plants, previously owned by Spain-based multinational Iberdrola. The move increased CFE’s share over power generation from roughly 40% to over 56%.

TUED unions in Mexico’s energy sector had supported AMLO’s efforts to reconstitute energy sovereignty by reversing the neoliberal reforms. They actively supported Scheinbaum’s candidacy and have been part of the international effort led by unions in the Global South to promote the “public pathway” approach to energy transition.

Ricardo Aldana, leader of the Mexican Oil Workers Union (STPRM), Martín Esparza Flores, secretary general of the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME) and Alfonso Cepeda Salas, secretary general of the National Union of Education Workers (SNTE) publicly declared their support for Sheinbaum leading up to her elections.

Mexico’s Oil Workers on Implications of MORENA’s Victory

Welcoming Sheinbaum’s June 2nd victory, Silvia Ramos Luna of the Unión Nacional de Técnicos y Profesionistas Petroleros (UNTyPP), which represents technical and professional workers within the national oil company PEMEX, stated:

  • “This has been a historic day for the people of Mexico for multiple reasons. Not only did we have a historic turnout, and secure a landslide win for Sheinbaum, MORENA’s presidential candidate, with nearly 60% of the vote, but perhaps most importantly in terms of strategy: we won Congress. MORENA and its allies secured a two-thirds majority in the lower house. We are crossing our fingers to also secure a majority in the Senate.
  • “Why is the latter so important?
  • “During the last six years that AMLO has tried to reverse the energy reform, he has tried to rescue national energy sovereignty. And it was not possible. Because what the PRI did in 2013 was to modify the Constitution, Articles 25, 27, 28. It was not possible to roll back the energy reform because it did not have a qualified majority (⅔ of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies are needed for any modification to the Constitution to proceed). Only the secondary laws can be moved, which, even though attempts have been made, the corrupt judges embedded in the Supreme Court and the entire judicial apparatus have prevented us from achieving the reforms. This new correlation of forces changes the fact that MORENA alone can now make constitutional modifications (these results are preliminary; they need to be confirmed).
  • “As leaders in the labour movement and Public Power advocates, we have enormous expectations for the upcoming years in Mexico. With a qualified majority, we will be able to reclaim and restore everything we lost in 2013, everything that was taken from us. It will be very difficult to rescue all the oil fields sold—but we also put up a fight. They had planned to sell 509 and only managed to sell 107 because, fortunately, in December 2018, AMLO stopped the scheduled auctions intended to sell additional oil fields.
  • “Following this week’s election results, we have a renewed hope to recover not only the wells that were for sale, but also to stop the sale of the oil pipelines, and to stop the sale of the plants that were being sold (although the AMLO government successfully recovered some of the hydrogen plants at the Tula refinery). The important thing is that not a single screw—not ONE screw—be put up for sale to the transnationals.
  • “We are also celebrating because the Sheinbaum and MORENA victory will allow us a greater opportunity to push for a real energy transition with sovereignty and justice. Sheinbaum is an expert on environmental issues and she understands the importance of this moment. We cannot overstate the joy that is knowing we can fight and achieve the recovery of our patrimony, and resources, and simultaneously achieve the recovery of the environment.
  • “The power sector is fundamental to the energy transition. And one of the things that the right wing has staunchly prevented us from achieving in the last six years was the rescue of our electricity company, the Federal Electricity Commission. Thanks to the right wing, power generation was left outside the Constitution and in the hands of private companies.
  • “The neoliberals prioritised the sale of energy from their thermoelectric plants over our thermoelectric, geothermal and nuclear plants. Today, there is a real possibility of recovering the CFE, the dispatch, and prioritising alternative energies, such as hydroelectric, wind, geothermal and nuclear—all of which together form our electricity diet—and prioritising them over the private ones. In sum, the preliminary election results are magnificent news for workers, for our energy sovereignty, and for supporters of the true energy transition. Of course, we will have to fight, pressure, and push forward our demands—and we will. Ni un paso atras.”

Electrical Workers Double Down Commitment to Public Power

Speaking for the power sector union Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas (SME), Martín Esparza Flores, secretary general of the Mexican Electrical Workers Union and Secretary of Exterior Relations Humberto Montes de Oca stated:

“The Mexican Electricians’ Union will be a bulwark in the defence of the popular will expressed at the ballot box. At the same time, we want to offer you our productive capacity and experience in the national electricity sector to continue fighting for the energy sovereignty of our country, the defence of its public companies, the human right to energy and a just, sovereign and democratic energy transition towards clean energy. You can count on the supportive, combative and respectful commitment of our centenary trade union organisation to deepen the changes that our country demands.”

Both of these leaders are at the forefront of an effort to build support for the public pathway approach to energy transition. At a recent meeting in Bogotá, Colombia, UNTyPP and SME joined unions from across Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) to assess the opportunities to promote alternatives to the neoliberal approach. The public pathway approach will be further developed at a meeting of Global South unions in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in mid-November, 2024. Convened by Central de Trabajadores de la Argentina Autónoma (CTA-A), the TUED South Interregional Meeting will bring together unions from the LAC, Africa and the Asia-Pacific region.

Claudia Sheinbaum’s 6 Campaign Commitments:

1. Investment in Renewable Energy: Sheinbaum plans to invest $13.57-billion in renewable energy projects, including solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal energy, over her six-year term​. We are working on the national energy plan not only through 2030, but to 2050,” Sheinbaum said in April, referring to the country’s climate commitments under the Paris Agreement.

2. Increase in Renewable Capacity: Her administration aims to add 13.66 gigawatts of renewable energy to Mexico’s national grid by 2030. This includes modernizing five hydroelectric plants and supporting the installation of solar panels for homes and small businesses​.

3. Expansion of Transmission Infrastructure: The plan includes the addition of around 3,850 kilometers of transmission lines to enhance the capacity and reliability of the national grid​ (Mexico News Daily)​​ (EnergiesNet)​.

4. Support for Existing Fossil Fuel Projects: While prioritizing renewable energy, Sheinbaum also commits to continuing with state-owned gas-burning power plant projects that are already under construction or planned​.

5. Energy Sovereignty and State-Owned Companies: Sheinbaum emphasizes the importance of energy sovereignty by strengthening state-owned entities like Pemex and the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE). She supports maintaining a significant role for these companies while allowing for private sector participation under clear and fair rules​ (Hart Energy)​.

6. Alignment with International Climate Goals: Her energy plan is designed to align with Mexico’s international climate commitments through 2050, focusing on sustainable development that balances economic growth with environmental protection​ (Mexico News Daily)​​ (Solar Cell)​. •

Trade Unions for Energy Democracy (TUED) is a global, multi-sector initiative to advance democratic direction and control of energy in a way that promotes solutions to the climate crisis, energy poverty, the degradation of both land and people, and responds to the attacks on workers’ rights and protections.

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