Grid modernization proposal advances to Senate; community solar bill dies

A bill to modernize the state’s electricity grid passed the House floor late Thursday with a vote of 61-1. Proponents say the bill would help integrate renewable energy resources into the state’s electric infrastructure. HB 233 directs the state Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department to develop a strategic roadmap for updating the state’s electric grid. The bill would also create a competitive grant program to support local communities in implementing grid modernization projects. The bipartisan bill has 17 co-sponsors.

PRC reform bill heads to House floor

Las Cruces Democratic Rep. Nathan Small’s proposal to restructure the Public Regulation Commission (PRC) passed its second committee late Wednesday with a 7-3 vote. Small and bill co-sponsor Rep. Linda Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, introduced a substitute version of HB 11 to the House Judiciary Committee. The legislation would restructure the PRC with the aim of streamlining operations and improving efficiencies. Small pointed to staffing issues, structural ambiguity and lack of stability as some of the chief issues at the PRC, and described the bill as a “modernization effort.”

“I think we can all agree that in this rapidly changing and technological world, we do well when we support the professionalization and addition of staff, we better protect staff, and we ensure a highly professionalized body that is able to carry out these very important technical regulatory functions,” Small said. “That’s exactly what our legislation does.”

Trujillo and Small said the substitute bill included some technical changes to the proposal in response to concerns brought up during the bill’s last committee hearing in the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

House version of electric vehicle tax credit advances

A proposal to create an electric vehicle tax credit is headed to the House floor after passing its second committee on Wednesday along party lines. HB 217 is one of two proposals for an EV tax credit, along with SB 2. The two bills are very similar but have key differences between them. Democratic Rep. Jim Trujillo of Santa Fe presented HB 217 to the House Taxation and Revenue Committee. The bill would establish two personal income tax credits for New Mexicans: one for purchasing or leasing plug-in hybrid vehicles or 100 percent battery electric vehicles; and a second tax credit for installing charging infrastructure at the home.

Gas tax bill dies in committee

A bill that would raise the state’s gasoline tax was tabled in the House Appropriations and Finance Committee Monday evening and is unlikely to advance in the remaining ten days of the 30-day Legislative session. “New Mexico has the fourth lowest gas tax in the nation, and we have the third worst roads in the nation. And those two items are connected,” said bill sponsor and Democratic Rep. Matthew McQueen, who represents parts of Bernalillo, Santa Fe, Torrance and Valencia counties. HB 173 would create a new gasoline and special fuel surtax of 10 cents per gallon, which would take effect in Fiscal Year 2021. The surtax would then increase by 5 cents per gallon annually until 2026.

Grid modernization bill advances to House floor

A bill aimed at updating the state’s aging electric infrastructure passed its second committee Monday. The proposal passed the House State Government, Elections and Indian Affairs committee without opposition or discussion. Albuquerque Democrat Rep. Melanie Stansbury presented HB 233 to the committee with Rep. Abbas Akhil, D-Santa Fe, and Sen. Pat Woods, R-Broadview. “I am one of the 17 co-sponsors,” Stansbury said. “This is fundamentally a good government bill.”

HB 233 directs the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department to develop a strategic roadmap for updating the state’s electric grid.

Transmission line bill passes House

The State House passed a proposal over the weekend aimed at expanding electricity transmission lines in the state. The bill, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Nathan Small of Las Cruces, passed with bipartisan support with a vote of 48-21 on Saturday after a two-hour debate. HB 50 would make transmission line projects eligible for Industrial Revenue Bonds (IRBs) issued by counties and municipalities. The bill’s proponents argued during earlier committee meetings it would support more renewable energy development in the state and would help bring wind energy generated in New Mexico to western markets. “The Industrial Revenue Bond process, which is voluntary, allows our counties and municipalities to construct these local agreements in order to foster economic development,” Small said.

PRC reform bill advances with big concerns

A bill to make big changes to the Public Regulation Commission (PRC) passed its first committee despite lingering questions over the proposal. After a length debate, the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee passed the bill Thursday with a vote of 8-5 along party lines. Democratic Reps. Nathan Small of Las Cruces and Rep. Linda Trujillo of Santa Fe presented HB 11 to the committee. The legislation would restructure the PRC with the aim of streamlining operations and improving efficiencies that Small and Trujillo contend are holding the state back and hurting New Mexico residents.

Bills aimed at improving energy efficiency for low-income households passes Senate committee

The Senate Conservation Committee passed a pair of bills designed to help low-income households in the state become more energy efficient. Albuquerque Democratic Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino first presented SB 114  to the Senate Conservation Committee. The bill would create a new $6 million community energy efficiency block grant program, administered by the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department’s (EMNRD) Energy Conservation Division. The block grant bill would be available to communities to provide energy efficient measures to low-income households. It is supported by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, but is not presently funded in the current adopted budget, HB 2.

Community solar bill passes first committee

A proposal to expand access to solar energy for New Mexico residents through the development of community solar projects passed its first committee Tuesday. Community solar projects, also referred to as “solar gardens,” are programs in which the energy generated by local solar systems are shared among energy subscribers. The power generation is typically located in a central location and distributed to subscribers in the area. Albuquerque Democrat and bill sponsor Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero presented HB 9 to the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee. Santa Fe Democratic Rep. Andrea Romero and the Speaker of the House Brian Egolf, who also represents Santa Fe, are co-sponsors of the bill, along with Albuquerque Democratic Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez.

Two versions of electric vehicle tax credit bills moving through committees

Legislation that would establish income tax credit for New Mexicans looking to buy electric vehicles (EV) passed its first hurdles in the House and Senate over the weekend. The two versions of the bill are similar but do differ in key ways. The proposals would create personal income tax credits for New Mexico residents who purchase or lease plug-in hybrid vehicles or 100 percent battery electric vehicles, beginning January 1, 2020. The bills provide a $2,500 tax credit for residents whose annual income is above $50,000; but the tax credit jumps to $5,000 for residents who make less than $50,000 as well as for married couples filing separately who make less than $37,500 or married couples filing jointly that make less than $75,000 per year. The EV tax credits have an annual cap of $10 million.