Community Solar Bill Passes NM Senate Taxes, Business and Transportation Committee
Santa Fe, NM – Senate Bill 84, enabling legislation to bring community solar to New Mexico, passed its second committee today, the Senate Taxes, Business and Transportation Committee 5-4, after dozens of community members spoke in support of the bill. The bill now heads to the Senate floor.
Community solar has significant momentum in part because it is supported by one of the most diverse coalitions to back the creation of a state energy program. The coalition includes elected officials, local industry, agriculture, clean energy advocates, leaders from Tribes and Pueblos, businesses and consumers. Ahead of today’s vote, the SOLution New Mexico coalition submitted over 1,000 letters and petitions to state legislators from New Mexicans supporting the bill.
“Thanks to leadership at the Roundhouse and in the Governor’s office, New Mexicans are starting to think about how we can rebuild better after the pandemic,” said Mayane Barudin, Interior West Director & Tribal Liaison at Vote Solar, a member of the SOLution New Mexico coalition. “Allowing new, local clean energy choices is a concrete action we can take to shift power to our communities, particularly Tribal communities that have long suffered the injustices of our old energy system. Now is the time to codify the opportunity of community solar.”
A recent study conducted by the University of New Mexico Bureau of Business & Economic Research (BBER) found that the construction and operation of new community solar facilities could generate an estimated $517 million in economic benefits and support more than 3,760 high-quality jobs in various sectors across New Mexico over the next five years.
According to the study, community solar projects could generate over $2.9 million in tax revenues annually for the state, revenue that would be funded by private companies and not require increased taxes or state investment. The study also calculated impact at the county level and found the average economic benefit per county over a 20-year period is almost $15 million in economic output and 117 new jobs.
“Getting through the Conservation Committee and now TBT is an important step in realizing the economic, energy equity, and grid benefits community solar can bring to all New Mexicans,” said Kevin Cray, Mountain West Regional Director for Coalition for Community Solar Access. “We hope the Senate will listen to the groundswell of support from stakeholders in every corner of the state and finally pass community solar.”
While 20 other states as well as the District of Columbia permit such projects, New Mexico utility rules prevent similar installations across the state. The bill would authorize community solar projects, which refer to small, local solar facilities shared by multiple community subscribers who receive credit on their electricity bills for their share of the power produced. Participation in community solar is voluntary and the legislation would not increase taxes.
“New Mexicans overwhelmingly want this. The time to provide this opportunity to New Mexican energy consumers and businesses is now,” said Ben Shelton, Political & Policy Director for Conservation Voters New Mexico.
Senate Bill 84 and House Bill 106 which are being sponsored by Senator Elizabeth “Liz” Stefanics (D- Bernalillo, Lincoln, San Miguel, Santa Fe, Torrance, Valencia) and Senator Linda M. Lopez (D-Bernalillo) on the Senate side and Representative Patricia Roybal Caballero (D Bernalillo) on the House side. The bill sponsors spent the summer listening to a diverse array of stakeholders through a Senate mandated working group to craft a bill that ensures all New Mexicans will benefit from the community solar program. The bill previously passed the Senate Conservation Committee 6-3.
About the SOLution New Mexico Coalition
SOLution New Mexico aims to help increase access to solar energy to all New Mexicans and rebuild New Mexico’s economy and rural communities with clean, locally produced community solar. The coalition is made up of a diverse group of local industry, agriculture and clean energy advocates who are calling on New Mexico legislators to pass community solar legislation that would use private investment to increase access to solar energy and boost New Mexico’s economy. Visit sol-utionnm.org to learn more about SOLution New Mexico.