The 2017 Renewable Portfolio Standard
During the 2017 legislative session, one of the most ambitious clean energy proposals that the state of New Mexico has ever seen was introduced. The Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) is a requirement that for-profit, investor-owned utilities (IOUs) like PNM, as well as rural distribution co-ops, provide a certain percentage of electricity to consumers from clean energy sources like wind and solar. Currently, the state is on track to require IOUs to deliver 20% of energy to customers from clean sources by the year 2020.
CVNM staff, along with staff from Environment New Mexico and 350.org, worked with Senator Mimi Stewart and Representative Nathan Small to draft the Clean Energy Jobs Act that would increase the wind and solar standard to 80% by the year 2040. This timeline would result in a steady increase in the amount of solar and wind energy produced in the state, and a corresponding increase in the jobs that the clean energy industry in the state supports. In the solar industry alone, New Mexico added over 1,000 jobs just in 2016. Modeling from the Union of Concerned Scientists indicates that increasing the wind and solar standard this way can result in as much as $6 billion dollars in private capital investment in the state. As the costs of clean energy continue to plummet, passing an ambitious wind and solar standard is a proven method of ensuring that power bills get smaller over time and that the price of electricity remains more consistent.
The bill was introduced in the Senate and referred to both the Senate Conservation Committee and the Senate Corporations Committee. The Clean Energy Jobs Act, Senate Bill 312, had its first committee hearing in the Senate Conservation Committee on February 28th. New Mexicans who support our state using more clean energy like wind and solar filled the room. With overwhelming support from the public and committee members, the bill passed on a 6-3 party line vote.
From Senate Conservation, the Clean Energy Jobs Act moved to the Senate Corporations Committee chaired by Senator Clemente Sanchez. Unlike in Senate Conservation, advocates needed to press Chair Sanchez to schedule the bill at all in order for it to continue moving. The bill was eventually scheduled for action in the Corporations Committee, and once again the committee convened in front of a room packed full of advocates there in support. As the bill was presented and Senator Stewart opened the floor for questions, it slowly became clear that one Senator in particular was struggling to understand the basics of the bill and even the science behind it: Senator Sanchez. His comments on the importance of clean energy to address climate change? “It will all turn again, and we’ll start getting the rains in the regular cycles like we always do.” A sitting state senator in charge of a committee seemed to lack a basic understanding of the effects that climate change is having on the planet, and on our state. A year later, and we’re still not getting the rains. Fires are burning hotter and earlier in northern New Mexico, and the Rio Grande is running dry as early as it ever has. It’s past time to get our transition to clean energy into high gear. Unfortunately, Chairman Sanchez and Senator Mary Kay Papen joined anti-conservation legislators on the committee to vote down the bill, going against a vast majority of New Mexicans that support increased investments in clean energy.
The Clean Energy Jobs Act was the first salvo at moving New Mexico to the forefront as a clean energy leader. Clean energy like wind and solar is a win-win for New Mexico because it plays to our strengths and puts New Mexicans first by creating homegrown jobs. We need our decision-makers to put politics aside and support emerging sectors, such as clean energy, that have proven successful in job creation and economic development. It will take changes of heart for legislators like Senator Sanchez, and a change in the Governor’s office. This bill is a priority for the 2019 legislative session, and we’re confident that we’ll get it passed with the help of Conservation Voters like you.