A bill aimed at classifying nuclear power as a renewable energy source in New Mexico stalled Thursday afternoon in committee on a tie vote. House Bill 406, sponsored by Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad, would have amended the state’s Renewable Energy Act, which requires energy companies provide a certain amount of electricity from renewable sources. Brown told the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee she didn’t know of any definite plans to bring nuclear power plants to the state, but that she wanted to broaden the options for a “baseload power” to replace coal or gas. Currently, Brown argued, wind and solar energy can only serve as “intermittent” power. “Unless we can get the wind to blow 24 hours a day and the sun to shine day and night, we’re still going to have those intermittent sources,” Brown said.
An Eddy County state representative wants to remove three words from the New Mexico Renewable Energy Act. That slight change would classify nuclear energy as a source of renewable energy. Republican state Rep. Cathrynn Brown, an attorney, introduced HB 406, which is scheduled for the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee on Thursday. The Renewable Energy Act requires public utilities, like PNM and Xcel Energy to provide customers with a certain amount of electricity generated from renewable sources. Currently, renewable sources include solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, certain hydropower facilities and fuel cells that don’t rely on fossil fuels.
New Mexico received a much-needed jolt of good news in an otherwise bleak economic situation when Facebook announced Wednesday they would build a data center in Los Lunas. The news, announced by Facebook and Gov. Susana Martinez, received praise from just about every politician in New Mexico. In the announcement, Martinez said she met with Facebook executives in August of last year. “When we first sat down with Facebook executives 13 months ago, we weren’t even on their radar. But we made a strong case and laid out how competitive we have become,” Martinez said in a statement.
A study by an environmental group says fossil fuel industry interests are aiming at taking down the growing solar energy industry. The local branch of the group says New Mexico has been resistant to these attempts. Environment America released a study on Tuesday looking at the way these groups attempt to head off solar industry. The study placed blame at the feet of organizations such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a controversial conservative group that allows close ties between corporate interests and legislators. While New Mexico is not specifically mentioned in the report, outside of a reference in the footnotes, Environment New Mexico sees this as a local issue.
Gov. Susana Martinez unveiled a state energy plan on Monday morning at the Southeastern New Mexico Energy Summit in Carlsbad. Martinez’s office called the plan the first such comprehensive policy for New Mexico in 25 years and the plan is predicated on energy abundance. The plan is available on the state Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department website. “New Mexico is one of the most energy-rich and energy-diverse states in the nation, and we have an excellent opportunity to utilize this position to grow our economy and create more jobs,” Martinez said in a statement. “Improving our energy infrastructure, responsibly developing and producing energy of all types, and better preparing our workforce for the needs of our energy sector are all critical components not only of a strong economic future, but of helping lead America to energy independence.”
Gov. Susana Martinez rejected a bill that would extend the Solar Market Development Tax Credit in the state—and supporters aren’t sure why. Martinez pocket vetoed the legislation, which means she did not sign the legislation before the deadline on action for bills passed in the final days of the legislative session. Unlike a regular veto, the 18 pieces of legislation that Martinez pocket vetoed do not come with an executive message that says why Martinez did not agree with the legislation. Groups that supported the solar tax credit extension do not know why the bill was pocket vetoed. “We’ve been asking and we haven’t heard a reason,” Sanders Moore, state director of Environment New Mexico, told New Mexico Political Report.
Successful bipartisan support for a bill to keep state tax credits for solar power installation in place until 2024 could bode well for final ratification by the governor. Sponsored by Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, SB 391 would prevent tax breaks enacted in 2006 from expiring in five years. The Solar Market Development Tax Credit now pays up to 10 percent of the cost for purchasing and installing solar photovoltaic or solar thermal systems. Stewart’s proposal will gradually phase that down to 5 percent.
According to the bill’s fiscal impact report, a growing number of New Mexicans claim solar tax credits mostly for new photovoltaic systems. The report also notes that in 2014, more than 1,000 residential-scale solar power systems added six megawatts to the power grid. A vocal minority of Republicans, some of whom work in the petroleum industry, opposed the measure. Rep. Larry Scott, R-Hobbs, argued Friday night that sun-generated energy would actually be cheaper without subsidies.