A transmission project that would move electricity from Hidalgo County to Arizona was recently selected for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Transmission Facilitation Program.
The Southline Transmission Project was one of three that entered into contract negotiations with the DOE in late October. This program includes the DOE agreeing to purchase a percentage of the total proposed capacity on the line, which decreases risk for developers.
U.S. Rep. Gabe Vasquez, a New Mexico Democrat representing the second congressional district, joined his Republican colleague, Rep. Juan Ciscomani of Arizona, on Wednesday to discuss the project benefits, which include job creation and economic development.
The project is anticipated to lower electricity bills for customers in a region with high levels of poverty by allowing clean energy from New Mexico to reach areas currently served by fossil fuels.
It is expected to create thousands of jobs and 900 union jobs, the congressmen highlighted during the press conference.
The developers have also committed to investing $4 million into local communities through donations to nonprofits, sponsorships and partnerships.
The Southline project is the first phase of a larger proposal and will stretch 175 miles. The line will transmit 748 megawatts of electricity, primarily from wind and solar sources.
Both Vasquez and Ciscomani have advocated for the project, including urging the DOE to select it for the Transmission Facilitation Program.
Ciscomani described the project as a game changer for energy in the southwest and said that it will “be transformative in accessing clean and reliable energy in our entire region.”
Vasquez spoke about the importance of bipartisan efforts to make energy projects like Southline a success.
“We don’t have a reliable grid if we don’t have transmission capacity,” he said.
At the same time, some New Mexicans are concerned about transmission lines that prioritize exporting electricity to other states when there are communities within the state that lack electricity.
Vasquez said there are other transmission projects that are focused on providing New Mexicans with electricity.
He said that while it is important to provide reliable electricity to New Mexicans, exporting power is also important.
“Renewable energy has to meet the demands of not just our state, but also our country,” he said.
Exporting energy, he said, can bring revenue into the state while also creating jobs and helping the economy.