After two delays, InClime announced the projects selected for New Mexico’s community solar program on Monday. InClime is the contractor hired by the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission to oversee the program. Six projects in the El Paso Electric service area, 10 in the Southwestern Public Service Company service area and 29 in the Public Service Company of New Mexico service area were selected. Each service area also has a waitlist of projects should one of the selected projects fall through. The first deadline the developers face is coming up on June 21.
After initially rejecting the proposals from the state’s three investor-owned utilities proposals for their community solar programs, state regulators approved one part of the modified versions the three utilities submitted—the bill credits.
This came as a result of advice notices the utilities were required to file. The notices inform community members and potential developers about the procedures necessary to get a community solar project going.
Community solar projects are arrays that produce electricity utility customers can purchase through a subscription process. This allows people who cannot afford or get solar power like low-income homeowners as well as renters and apartment dwellers to benefit from clean, affordable solar. The utility takes the solar from the array and delivers it to the subscribers within their territory. The subscribers then benefit from a bill credit, which will be calculated on a per kilowatt hour basis.
The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission denied Southwestern Public Service Company’s request to delay implementing the community solar program while the state Supreme Court weighs an appeal. SPS appealed the PRC’s final ruling in the community solar case in July, which some community solar proponents see as an attempt to stall. In its appeal, SPS argued that the rule does not adequately protect customers. Community solar allows people to receive electricity from small arrays. This is intended to benefit people who cannot afford solar panels for their homes or who rent or live in an apartment where they are not authorized to install solar.
The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission unanimously approved an order on Wednesday adopting a rule for community solar. The rulemaking process began following the passage of the Community Solar Act last year, which set a deadline of April 1 for the PRC to adopt rules. Community solar allows for developers to build small arrays to provide solar energy to subscribers who might otherwise not have access to renewable energy.
After Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the bill into law last year, the PRC formed an action team that provided input on the provisions of the rule prior to adoption. An ad-hoc group led by the Coalition for Community Solar Access also provided input after hosting a series of meetings discussing topics like scoring criteria and minimum bid requirements. The ad-hoc group was not sanctioned by the PRC, but allowed the groups to align their positions in the formal comments that were submitted to the PRC during the process.
After months of informal stakeholder meetings, the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission drafted a proposed community solar rule and opened the formal rulemaking process. The PRC unanimously approved an order kicking off the formal process during its Wednesday meeting. The rules must be in place by April 1 under the Community Solar Act.
The notice of proposed rulemaking will be published in the New Mexico Register on Nov. 9. After that, the public will have until Dec.
While the Community Solar Act does not go into effect until June 18, investor-owned utilities have been receiving applications, and at least one of the utilities has expressed uncertainty about how to process such applications because rules regarding such projects will not be completed until next year. The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission, which is tasked with regulating utilities and community solar programs, has until April 1, 2022, to issue the final order adopting rules for community solar projects. Citing the uncertainty that utilities are facing with the applications, the PRC is issuing a notice to the state’s three investor-owned utilities explaining that the current interconnection rules will remain in place until the commission rules otherwise and that community solar project applications that have been received will not receive any priority consideration. “Neither the utilities nor the applicants are certain as to what the pending rulemaking means in regards to the status of those applications,” said PRC General Counsel Russel Fisk during the meeting on June 15. A community solar array is a small facility with at least 10 subscribers who receive at least a portion of their electricity from the array.
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.
State Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero would like to redefine energy production in New Mexico. Speaking on a panel about community solar, Caballero said she got the idea from the book Energy Democracy, which she uses as a textbook when she teaches. “The basic premise is that we treat energy as commons,” the Albuquerque Democrat said, “and we change how we understand energy production, from consumption and profit being an end, to an energy transition providing services essential to life and quality of living for all community members.”
Roybal Caballero is one of a group of advocates and activists who gathered at the Center for Peace and Justice in Santa Fe on Tuesday to discuss the benefits of community solar and its place in a just transition to clean energy. The event was organized by the nonprofit advocacy group Retake Our Democracy. “That’s an important premise, and one that we need to be grounded in,” she said.