U.S. ready to help Mexico finance solar plans, Lopez Obrador says

MEXICO CITY, Dec 20 (Reuters) - The United States is offering to help Mexico with loans to finance planned solar power stations in the northern state of Sonora that will significantly increase clean energy supply, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Tuesday.

Mexico, which has been at odds with the United States and Canada over electricity policy because of Lopez Obrador's drive to give control of the market to his cash-strapped state energy companies, wants to double renewable power capacity by 2030.

Boasting some of the highest temperatures in Mexico, Sonora is an arid, sunny state next to Arizona. Lopez Obrador wants to build five solar plants there to help the economy transition toward more environmentally sustainable energy use.

"The United States are ready to help with cheap loans for the construction of all this infrastructure," Lopez Obrador told reporters at a regular news conference.

Mexico's government said the solar project known as "Plan Sonora" will form part of talks when Lopez Obrador meets U.S. President Joe Biden on Jan. 10 at a three-way summit in Mexico City with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Those meetings will also address migration, combating poverty, labor mobility and other issues, the government said.

Lopez Obrador said the solar plants will complement U.S. investments in Arizona aimed at increasing regional semiconductor output, as well as efforts to ramp up electric car production and use to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

The president wants the plants to be run by national power utility Comision Federal de Electricidad (CFE). He said Mexico had accepted the idea of loans on the condition that they went to the CFE and were offered at low interest rates.

As part of the arrangement, the two sides agreed that contracts to build the solar plants would be exclusively reserved for Mexican and U.S. companies, he said, before adding that Canadian firms could also potentially take part.

Lopez Obrador's prioritization of state control over the energy sector at the expense of private investors has caused widespread discontent among businesses. This summer that led to a formal trade dispute led by the United States against Mexico.

Mexico says it must invest $48 billion to meet its goal of doubling renewable energy capacity.

Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said the CFE had drawn up plans for this purpose, which included Plan Sonora, and that they would be presented to Biden at the summit.

Reporting by Dave Graham

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.