USC Price School of Public Policy

Mexico and California: Opportunities for cleaner energy cooperation

April 29, 2017

USC Price School in Sacramento hosts forum, “Cross-Border Renewable Energy Collaboration: Mexico and California’s Shared Future.” (Photo by Juliet Lee)

By Scott Steele

From left: Emilio Camacho, James Sweeney, Juan Rosellón, Adam Rose and Juliet Lee (Photo by Juliet Lee)

Photo by Juliet Lee

Photo by Juliet Lee

Facing what seem to be contradictory policy trends regarding renewable energy, experts say that Mexico and California can learn from one another about how to work together to foster renewable sources on both sides of the border.

Speaking to an audience of policymakers, USC students and alumni in Sacramento, the USC Price School of Public Policy hosted a lively panel discussion at a forum titled “Cross-Border Renewable Energy Collaboration: Mexico and California’s Shared Future.”

Moderator Adam Rose, USC Price research professor and fellow of the Schwarzenegger Institute on State and Global Policy, noted the importance of the topic. “Given that renewables are generally in infinite supply where they exist, it is more a matter of when, rather than if, they will replace fossil fuels,” he said.

One of the questions posed during the forum was how Mexico and California could collaborate to facilitate the production of renewable energy. Panelist Juan Rosellón, Fulbright-García Robles Scholar at USC Price and professor of economics at CIDE (Mexico City), mentioned that, “Cooperation between Mexico and the United States, so as to integrate cross-border power exchange and system operation, can only lead to mutual social-welfare gains and ensure the security of energy supply in both countries.”

Panelists also included Emilio Camacho, Chief of Staff of the California Energy Commission, and James Sweeney, professor of economics and senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. According to Sweeney, the economics, technology and policies all have to work. “If you care about the environment, you should care about renewable energy,” he said.

Wind and solar energy auctions, distributed generation, as well as energy-efficiency policies, were among the topics discussed at the lunchtime event.

Potential policy shifts under the Trump administration leave California policymakers uncertain about the future of federal energy regulations, programs and funding.

“Although the Trump Administration is rolling back federal initiatives on climate change, the vast majority of the progress on this pressing policy issue has been implemented by climate action plans at the state level — more than 35 states have implemented or are considering implementing such plans, and California has been a leader in these efforts,” Rose said. “The new administration is unlikely to have a major adverse effect on these plans.”

Historic reforms in Mexico have increased support for renewable energy sources and opened up its energy sector to more competition and foreign investment. Rosellón explained that, “The new electricity-market design in Mexico foresees the development of clean generation, having natural-gas as base-load technology, so as to achieve a 50-50 percent share by the middle of this century. Mexico will then be a solid reliable consumer of cheap shale gas produced in the USA for the coming decades, implying again mutual gains for both countries.”

The forum was part of the USC Price School State Capital Center’s ongoing policy outreach series of events and held in conjunction with the graduate-level class being taught in Sacramento by professors Rose and Rosellón. Students at the USC Price School may earn a Master of Public Administration degree by attending courses at the center in Sacramento.