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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Renewable Energy R&D in Public Research Centres: Assessing its relation with the industry in Mexico

Liliana Estrada-Galindo

Renewable Energy R&D in Public Research Centres: Asessing its relation with the industry in Mexico


Mexico currently has a strong dependence on fossil fuels (Villanueva, 2009). According to the Minister of Energy, in 2009 around 74% of the total energy consumption of the country came from fossil fuels (SENER, 2009). Moreover, the country‟s total energy demand is rapidly increasing and it is estimated that it will increase to around 46% by 2025 (SENER, 2011), thus increasing the demand for fossil fuels.
In addition, Mexico bases a considerable part of its economy on the oil sector (INEGI, 2010). This fact makes the country vulnerable because it is estimated that with the current pattern of consumption and reserves this resource will not last more than one decade (González, 2009).
On the other hand, Mexico has a strong commitment to reducing GHG emissions; to around 50% by 2050 in relation to 2000 levels (Garrison, 2010). Given this situation, the use of renewable energies would represent a good opportunity for Mexico to reduce its fossil fuel consumption and achieve its goal of reducing GHG emissions (IEA, 2011).
Considering that Mexico has a great number of renewable energy resources (Garrison, 2010), and that they only make up around 8% of its final energy consumption (SENER, 2011), it seems that the country has great potential in this area. Therefore, this research is focused on determining the elements that may inhibit or enhance the diversification of the energy mix in the country.
This work is also based on the fact that, as the OECD states, technological development and its diffusion will play a very important role in overcoming energy challenges ‟while maintaining a strong global economy and meeting energy and other development needs‟ in developing countries (OECD/IEA, 2010). Being the base of technology development, the R&D capacity and the innovation system in the country are also important (OECD/IEA, 2010) (CONACYT, 2008) for the final objective of energy mix diversification.

Currently in Mexico, it is recognised that the main actors are not ideally coordinated in the innovation system (CONACYT, 2008), and considering that it would be convenient to evaluate the specific case of the renewable energy area, the objectives of this study are:

- Identify the main barriers that inhibit the diversification of Mexico‟s energy mix and verify the importance of the technology development in the Mexican RE system
- Evaluate the relationship between the government, Public Research Centres and the Industry in the RE system, and identify critical points in which improvements can be made.
Research question
- What are the critical factors in the RE system that can contribute to the diversification of the energy mix in Mexico?

Research method
A variety of literature sources were used in this dissertation, including government publications, books, journals, reports, etc. Also, empirical data were collected from 13 interviews with individuals from the government, industry and academia.
The interviewees were selected because of their experience and positions. So, the information derived does not aim to be representative of the sector, but to provide strategic visions of the system.
Once critical aspects were identified, the selection of two case studies was made in order to be characterised.

The relevance of this research is its attempt to identify the critical aspects that are inhibiting the transition to renewable energies in Mexico based on valuable information of key actors in the RE area. The results obtained can be considered as a good basis for further research which could establish strategies at the national level.


Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.