José López Portillo power station

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José López Portillo power station (Central Termoeléctrica José López Portillo) is an operating power station of at least 1200-megawatts (MW) in Nava, Coahuila, Mexico. It is also known as Río Escondido power station, Carbón I power station.


Table 1: Project-level location details

Plant name Location Coordinates (WGS 84)
José López Portillo power station Nava, Nava, Coahuila, Mexico 28.46815, -100.697406 (exact)

The map below shows the exact location of the power station.

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Unit-level coordinates (WGS 84):

  • Unit 1, Unit 2, Unit 3, Unit 4: 28.46815, -100.697406

Project Details

Table 2: Unit-level details

Unit name Status Fuel(s) Capacity (MW) Technology Start year Retired year
Unit 1 operating coal - bituminous 300 subcritical 1982
Unit 2 operating coal - bituminous 300 subcritical 1983
Unit 3 operating coal - bituminous 300 subcritical 1985
Unit 4 operating coal - bituminous 300 subcritical 1987

Table 3: Unit-level ownership and operator details

Unit name Owner
Unit 1 Comisión Federal de Electricidad EPE (CFE) [100.0%]
Unit 2 Comisión Federal de Electricidad EPE (CFE) [100.0%]
Unit 3 Comisión Federal de Electricidad EPE (CFE) [100.0%]
Unit 4 Comisión Federal de Electricidad EPE (CFE) [100.0%]


Operated by CFE (Mexico's federal electricity commission), the José López Portillo plant is one of two large coal-fired power complexes in Nava, Coahuila, Mexico.[1] The plant's four generating units have a capacity of 300 MW each, for a total capacity of 1200 MW.[1][2][3]

The plant has been in operation since 1982[4] and burns approximately 16,000 tons of coal daily.[5] Coal for the plant is sourced from the Micare Coal Mine.[6][7][8]

Potential retirement & the politics of decarbonization

Since 2017, Mexico has been a member of the Powering Past Coal Alliance, a group of nations that have pledged to phase out existing coal plants.[9][10] However, the country's stated commitment to decarbonization has been directly contradicted by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's calls for increased investment in coal and other fossil fuels since taking office in December 2018.[11][12] In 2020, Mexico ramped up its purchases of coal while imposing new rules discouraging solar and wind projects[13], and the country remains far from complying with its clean energy commitments under the Paris Climate Accord.[9]

The Mexican government acquired 1.5 million tons of coal from small- and medium-sized producers in Coahuila state in 2020-21, and in February 2022 CFE (Mexico's federal electricity commission) announced that it would again make large purchases of domestic coal, sufficient to supply 4% of the country's electricity generation.[14] In June 2022, CFE launched 50 tenders aimed at acquiring 2.27 million tons of coal from Nuevo León and Coahuila states to fuel the José López Portillo and Carbón II power plants.[15]

Coahuila's state government remains committed to the sustained use of domestic coal for electricity generation, calling for coal use to remain "at least" at current levels through 2023[16], and the head of Mexico's Federal Electricity Commission has suggested that Coahuila's coal plants should continue operating permanently.[17] According to the Mexican Geological Survey, Coahuila state produces 99% of Mexico's coal[18], and the director of Mexico's National Coal Producers' Union estimates that the livelihood of tens of thousands of state residents depends directly or indirectly on coal production.[4]

The Mexican government's 15-year energy development plan for 2018-2032 makes no provision for decommissioning the José López Portillo plant, although it does call for shutdown of the neighboring Carbón II power station in 2029.[19] Reports indicated that the government intended to rehabilitate and modernize the José López Portillo plant, adding 120 MW[20] to 129 MW[19] of generating capacity and investing tens of millions of pesos to extend the useful life of the plant by as much as 15 years.[21] In November 2021, the Mexican government announced plans for the maintenance of units 2 and 3 valued at 316.4 million pesos.[22]

Mexico's 2023-2037 National Electricity System development plan did not mention the specific retirement of any of its coal-fired power stations, although it noted that an estimated 4,317 MW of installed generating capacity would be retired, substituted, or converted by 2037.[23]

Coal supply contracts under scrutiny for conflicts of interest

From 2022 to 2023, the CFE came under federal and public scrutiny following the award of coal supply contracts for Carbón II and the José López Portillo power station. CFE had awarded two coal supply contracts of 571 million pesos each to a company with familial ties to the Morenista mayor's office and the Labor Party.[24] When investigated by Mexico's Superior Audit Office of the Federation (ASF), CFE denied any conflict of interest.[24]

Health & environmental impacts

The José López Portillo power complex is one of Mexico's worst polluters. The plant ranks first in the country in annual emissions of methane (over 150 tons per year), first in nitrous oxide (229 tons), first in nitric oxides (over 50,000 tons), second in carbon dioxide (over 10 million tons), and fourth in sulfur dioxide emissions (over 115,000 tons annually). A June 2020 article in El Economista notes that air pollution from the coal plants of Coahuila state is a known contributor to lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, and acute respiratory illness, with the latter being the state's number one health problem, according to government figures. The José López Portillo plant, together with the neighboring Carbón II power station and the Petacalco power station in Guerrero state, accounts for 22% of the GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions from Mexico's electricity sector while contributing only 10% of national electricity production.[4]

Articles and Resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Jose Lopez Portillo (Carbon I, Rio Escondido) Coal Power Station". GEO (Global Energy Observatory). Retrieved 2021-01-10.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. Badillo, Diego (June 13, 2020). "Las carboeléctricas ya no tienen cabida en México: Jorge Villarreal". El Economista.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. "0218 CFE: Repotenciación y Modernización de Central Termoeléctrica José López Portillo – Proyectos México". Proyectos México. Retrieved 2021-01-11.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Badillo, Diego (June 20, 2020). "Centrales eléctricas de Coahuila y el lado oscuro de la fiesta del carbón". El Economista.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. "Recorre AMLO instalaciones de la termoeléctrica 'José López Portillo'". El Tiempo de Monclova. October 25, 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. "MICARE". AHMSA. Retrieved 2022-02-16.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. Orellana, A.; Stephenson, H. G. (1996-12-31). "Operational improvements in MICARE`s underground mines". {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  9. 9.0 9.1 "México está incumpliendo los compromisos ambientales ante el Acuerdo de París, según expertos". La República. December 28, 2020. Retrieved 2021-01-11.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. "PPCA Members | Powering Past Coal Alliance". Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA). Retrieved 2021-01-11.
  11. "Energías limpias, sofisma que usó la política neoliberal para beneficiar a particulares: AMLO". Animal Político. October 24, 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. "Alternative energy efforts in Mexico slow as Lopez Obrador prioritizes oil". Los Angeles Times. 2019-07-10.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. "El gobierno de México comprará toneladas de carbón para termoeléctricas". infobae. July 17, 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  14. "CFE to Open Tender for Coal Mining Companies". Mexico Business News. February 15, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  15. "México lanza licitaciones para compra de carbón". Rumbo Minero. June 27, 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  16. "Programa Especial de Energía 2017-2023 (p 36)" (PDF). Gobierno del Estado de Coahuila. September 2018.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  17. "CFE buscará que carboeléctricas trabajen permanentemente: Manuel Bartlett". Energía Hoy. 2019-08-05.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  18. "Panorama Minero del Estado de Coahuila (p 11)" (PDF). Servicio Geológico Mexicano. December 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  19. 19.0 19.1 "PRODESEN: Programa de Desarrollo del Sistema Eléctrico Nacional 2018-2032 (p 81)" (PDF). SENER (Secretaría de Energía de México). 2018.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  20. "Repotenciación de centrales termoeléctricas" (PDF). Transición Energética. October 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  21. "Supervisará Bartlett trabajos de modernización de termoeléctricas de Nava". El Siglo. October 13, 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  22. México, Jacob Sánchez | El Sol de. "Busca CFE recursos para sus centrales". El Sol de México | Noticias, Deportes, Gossip, Columnas (in español). Retrieved 2021-11-18.
  23. Programa de Desarrollo del Sistema Eléctrico Nacional (PRODESEN), Secretaría de Energia (Mexico), May 2023

Additional data

To access additional data, including an interactive map of coal-fired power stations, a downloadable dataset, and summary data, please visit the Global Coal Plant Tracker on the Global Energy Monitor website.