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NM Lawmakers Could Flatten State's Renewable Energy Requirement

PHOTO: New Mexico lawmakers are considering legislation to cut future renewable-energy requirements for utilities in the state. Photo courtesy California Energy Commission.
PHOTO: New Mexico lawmakers are considering legislation to cut future renewable-energy requirements for utilities in the state. Photo courtesy California Energy Commission.
March 11, 2015

SANTA FE, N.M. - A bill moving through the New Mexico Legislature would remove higher renewable-energy requirements for utilities in the state in the future.

House Bill 445 would roll back the requirement that 20 percent of retail sales for public utilities come from renewable-energy sources by 2020, and leave it at the current requirement, which is 15 percent.

Regina Wheeler, chief executive of Positive Energy Solar, disagreed with the idea, contending that solar power not only uses less water than coal and emits no carbon emissions but also is cheaper for consumers.

"The comparison is this," she said. "You're paying approximately 10 cents a kilowatt hour to PNM for electricity, and you pay approximately 8 cents a kilowatt hour for the power off of the solar on your roof."

According to the fiscal impact statement for the bill, 29 states have a renewable portfolio standard - and most of them have targets above 15 percent. Supporters of lowering the requirements believe that renewable energy generally is more expensive for utilities and their customers.

Wheeler predicted that House Bill 445 also would turn back efforts to reduce the environmental effects of carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, such as worsening drought and more severe wildfires.

"We just really can't afford to wait," he said. "It has to happen now, if we have any chance of saving the climate, and the water, and the lifestyle that we currently enjoy."

She said there are economic impacts as well. According to the latest National Solar Jobs Census, about 1,600 people are employed in New Mexico's solar-energy sector. Nationally, the industry employs more than 170,000 people.

The text of HB 445 is online at nmlegis.gov and the Fiscal Impact Statement is here.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - NM