February 15, 2022

Low-income energy efficiency bill passes Senate, heads to Governor’s desk

A bill intended to lower how much low-income residents pay in utility bills passed the Senate on Tuesday on a 26-14 party-line vote.

HB 37, the Community Energy Efficiency Development Block Grant, would allow communities to apply for funding to help lower-income areas with energy efficiency upgrades such as weatherization or replacing old appliances. It passed the House of Representatives on Feb. 5.

Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, co-sponsored the measure and presented it on the Senate floor. She said New Mexicans in rural, low-income communities and underserved areas pay a large portion of their income in energy-related bills.

“Experts say that 5 percent is what’s affordable,” Stewart said. “We have some communities like McKinley, they spend 37 percent of their income on utilities.”

She said people living in poverty on average pay 15 percent or more of their income.

Energy efficiency upgrades can reduce utility bills by lowering usage.

The block grant program would be administered by the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department. EMNRD will be responsible for evaluating the applications and prioritizing them as well as determining whether a person or household qualifies as low-income. It will also be tasked with making grants and entering into contracts to implement the selected projects. 

Counties, municipalities, Native American tribes, Pueblos and Nations and the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority will be able to submit applications to EMNRD for grants for energy efficiency projects.

The legislation now heads to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk.