March 23, 2019

The Energy Transition Act is a big step forward

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Climate change represents one of the greatest security and economic threats our country has ever seen. But our response to climate change can also become the greatest opportunity for economic growth in generations.

New Mexico is well positioned to seize this opportunity. Our wind and solar resources are unrivaled, and by transitioning to a 100 percent carbon-free energy policy by 2045, we can become a national leader on clean energy, confront climate change, create new jobs, and attract private capital to our communities. That’s why I’m proud that Governor Lujan Grisham and the New Mexico Legislature passed the Energy Transition Act.

Across the nation, consumer demand and technological advances have made clean energy more reliable and more cost-effective than traditional energy sources like coal. We are already seeing the massive economic potential of this transition for New Mexico in the enormous wind farms and solar plants coming online—each bringing hundreds of new jobs and millions of dollars of investment. As we move toward more clean power generation, we can create thousands of new, high-paying jobs all across our state.

Although the Energy Transition Act will fundamentally change our state and our economy for the better, that change will not come without real challenges. When we move away from coal-fired generating plants like the San Juan Generating Station in northwestern New Mexico, we must not walk away from the hardworking families who will be impacted by their closure. The Navajo Nation and communities like Farmington deserve our full support throughout this energy transition.

There is no perfect solution for the communities who have long depended on the jobs at the San Juan Generating Station. However, the Energy Transition Act takes a responsible approach, providing compensation and job retraining for workers in San Juan County and the Navajo Nation and investing tens of millions of dollars in new clean energy projects that will help replace the lost economic impact of the coal plant. This is just the first step, and it will need to be followed up with a long-term commitment to engagement and investment in the success of an evolving Four Corners economy.

The Energy Transition Act will also protect PNM customers all across New Mexico by making sure the costs of closing the plant are refinanced at lower rates. In the long-term, the new law will save New Mexicans money in their monthly energy bills.

We shouldn’t resist change just for the sake of trying to hold on to the past. Consumers across the nation are demanding that their utilities seek cheaper and cleaner power sources. These forces determining the changes in the energy sector are going to keep moving forward regardless of how well or how quickly we position New Mexico to thrive in the new landscape. We can’t afford to wait.

I am proud of the hard work and compromise that led to this legislation. The solutions offered by the Energy Transition Act are the best way for us to take concrete action to move New Mexico toward a prosperous clean energy future.

Martin Heinrich is a U.S. Senator who represents New Mexico.