February 16, 2020

House passes renewable energy investment plan proposal

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The state House passed a memorial that would direct the State Investment Council (SIC) to explore investment opportunities in renewable energy, transmission and storage. HM 9 directs the SIC and the State Land Office to collaborate together on developing a strategic plan for investing in renewables and related projects within the state.

“The goal of this memorial is to invest more renewables in our state,” said Democratic Rep. and bill sponsor Joseph Sanchez of Alcalde. “Our state has the second highest solar density in the country, second to the Mojave Desert in California. The renewable industry is booming in other states, this is a great opportunity to move forward in this area.”

Democratic Reps. Dan Barrone of Taos and Andrea Romero of Santa Fe are co-sponsors of the memorial. Sanchez also introduced a companion bill to the memorial, HB 99, which would allocated $50,000 to the SIC for fiscal years 2020 and 2021 to support the office in developing the strategic plan.

Rep. Jim Strickler, R-Farmington, asked whether the SIC would explore carbon capture systems under the proposal.

“It looks like that could be a better than a 7 percent rate of return, so the investment council might want to invest in a project like that,” Strickler said.

But a few other Republicans were uncomfortable that the memorial left out oil and gas, highlighting an undercurrent of tension between oil and gas stakeholders and clean energy advocates within the Legislature.

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“There would be no direct SIC state investments into oil and gas projects within the state, is that correct?” asked Rep. Larry Scott, R-Hobbs.

“If that’s something you’d like to see, I would recommend you introduce a memorial to look into that,” Sanchez said.

Strickler said he might be “strung up by his thumbs” if he did.

Minority Whip Rod Montoya of Farmington, also a Republican, said the state legislature is treating oil and gas like an unwanted boyfriend.

“It appears to me we’re sending a message to the number one billpayer in this state, the oil and gas industry,” Montoya said.

He pointed to a memorial he tried to pass last session that would have thanked the oil and gas industry for helping the state financially through things like the rainy day fund. That memorial failed.

“What we’re saying to that industry is, you’re a really nice boyfriend, you give me a lot of good gifts, but I’m really waiting for that other guy,” Montoya said, appearing to reference renewable energy. “I’m worried that the overall message we’re sending to those [oil and gas] guys is, I can’t hardly wait to live without you.”

The memorial passed the House floor with a vote of 50-18 and heads to the Senate next. HB 99 is awaiting consideration in the House Appropriations and Finance Committee.