Progress on Solar For All in Sunny New Mexico

Good news: Our Vote Solar team has been working tirelessly to ensure that everyone in New Mexico can tap into our solar market and save on energy bills. In the 2020 legislative session, we made important progress on affordable, healthy, job-creating solar energy for all in New Mexico!

Here in sunny New Mexico, solar just makes sense. Right now, affordable solar power is providing savings, jobs and healthier air to states and communities all across the country. Still, despite almost year-round sunshine, most New Mexicans do not have access to solar because we are limited to rooftop solar development. This means that renters and families who are not able to bear the cost of a rooftop solar system cannot take full advantage of New Mexico’s renewable energy future.

The solution is simple: Community solar provides everyone the opportunity to choose local, reliable, and cost-effective clean energy — no matter their income or what type of home they live in. At Vote Solar, we’ve been working to make community solar a reality for our state.

Community solar projects provide large solar arrays that more residents can plug into. This gives solar opportunity to families of all income levels, Native American Pueblos and Tribes, municipalities, counties, businesses and nonprofit entities, including low-income housing and service organizations. This means that everyone would have the opportunity to choose local, reliable, and cost-effective clean energy–no matter their income or what type of home they live in.

Community solar subscribers should also be able to save money on their monthly electricity bills, which is vital for the concerns and pockets of our neighbors. That’s why we worked with Representative Patricia Roybal Caballero in both 2017 and 2019 to support meaningful community solar legislation that would deliver on the promise of solar for all.

During the 2019 session of the state legislature, community solar almost became a reality. But almost isn’t good enough for communities that have been systematically left out of power in creating their own energy future. We moved forward with continued support from Senator Liz Stefanics and new support from House Speaker Egolf and several other co-sponsors, fighting hard once again with Rep. Roybal Caballero to pass common-sense legislation this year.

Although a statewide program did not pass this year, we have successfully taken one step closer towards community solar in New Mexico with the success of Senate Memorial 63, sponsored by Sen. Liz Stefanics and Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero. The memorial requests “the New Mexico Legislative Council to arrange for a third-party facilitator to convene a working group to review statewide community solar initiatives and develop recommendations for implementation of those initiatives.”

The working group will include the state Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, the Public Regulatory Commission, utility companies and electric cooperatives, renewable energy industry representatives, the New Mexico municipal league, Indian nations, tribes and pueblos, low-income service providers, local governments, environmental organizations, and community members in the development of concrete community solar policy initiatives. The group will be created by March 21, 2020 to develop recommendations for the appropriate interim legislative committee by October 1, 2020. The memorial also notes the impressive amount of solar capacity installed and job creation from the solar market and how this fits within the needs of New Mexicans.

It’s critical that this working group gets its recommendations right. Not only must the working group develop policy recommendations that fulfill the wants and needs of our communities and stakeholders, but it must also look to solutions that support a scalable and sustainable market to help the state transition to 100% renewable. We know that community solar legislation must include critical components to be accessible and equitable to our residents, including low-income households and communities disproportionately affected by environmental justice impacts.

As a Tribal member of Kewa (Santo Domingo) Pueblo, I recognize that it is necessary for legislation to be written with meaningful consultation from our Tribal nations. During the critical drafting stages of the bill, I worked closely with the All Pueblo Council of Governors and Tribal liaisons to assure that the Community Solar Act fulfills the wants and needs of Tribal nations. The working group continues the involvement of tribal nations in the development of future community solar policy solutions to enable tribes’ pursuits of energy sovereignty and self-determination.

New Mexico is making great strides in environmental and energy leadership with the Energy Transition Act. We must make sure that the implementation of the ETA benefits New Mexican communities and puts savings in the pockets of ratepayers. Community solar is key, and is up to our legislators and the powerful voices of their districts to make it happen.

We’ll keep in touch as there are opportunities for you to engage in the working group’s efforts. Sign up to join Vote Solar for updates on solar progress in New Mexico and across the U.S.

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