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.
Federal officials announced new tax incentives for clean energy projects located within traditional fossil fuel producing communities, such as the Four Corners region. During a White House energy communities briefing on Tuesday, officials announced an additional 10 percent bonus on Inflation Reduction Act incentives for clean energy projects if they are built in fossil fuel communities.
“Many energy communities have the knowledge, infrastructure and the resources to take advantage of the clean energy transition but in many cases these communities would benefit significantly from an initial public investment to jumpstart this process,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said. Yellen said that means a solar farm operator can get an extra dime on the dollar of their investment if they site a new facility in a coal community on top of the existing tax credits. A new map available at energycommunities.gov shows which communities are eligible for these tax incentives. These communities include census tracts that directly adjoin tracts that have seen coal mines close since 1999 or have had units at coal-fired power plants retire since 2009.
The state Senate passed a bill that would require new homes to be built so that solar panels can be installed. SB 77 originally would have required future homes to be built with solar panels that could provide at least a portion of the home’s electricity. An amendment made during the Senate Tax, Business and Transportation Committee discussions changed this to require new construction to offer photovoltaic systems. The amendment also requires that new homes be set up to handle charging of electric vehicles. The bill, which is sponsored by Sen. Bill Soules, D-Las Cruces, passed the Senate on a 23-15 vote and now heads to the House of Representatives. Some of the concerns expressed on the Senate floor include increased costs to future homeowners and supply chain delays that have slowed down solar deployment.
By Nicholas Gilmore, The Santa Fe New Mexican
Some local governments and climate advocacy groups are pushing a bill that could open up energy control to localities in the state.
On Tuesday, Santa Fe County commissioners unanimously passed a resolution in support of Senate Bill 165, the Local Choice Energy Act, which was introduced in the state Senate last month by Sen. Carrie Hamblen, D-Las Cruces. Bernalillo County commissioners also showed support for the bill by unanimously passing a similar resolution in January.
A coalition of grassroots advocacy groups called Public Power New Mexico says the goal of “local choice energy” is to give communities in the state the option to “generate affordable, renewable electricity that creates jobs and invests in local economies.” The coalition comprises environmental, racial and economic justice groups throughout the state such as New Energy Economy, Indigenous Lifeways, Youth United for Climate Action and Earth Care New Mexico, among others.
Presently, the bill awaits a hearing in the Senate Conservation Committee. Similar bills were introduced in 2019 and 2021, although they didn’t get far; the 2021 bill died in the Senate Tax, Business and Transportation Committee after passing the Senate Conservation Committee. The bill’s supporters say it could drive down electricity prices and give communities more control over where their power comes from.
The costs of replacing the electricity that Public Service Company of New Mexico will pay has increased and solar projects have been delayed. On Friday, PNM asked the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission to approve amendments to the San Juan Solar project’s power purchase agreement and energy storage agreement. These amendments include both a new completion date and new price with project developer D.E. Shaw Renewable Investments, or DESRI. Commissioners approved on order on a 4-1 vote on Wednesday allows for a hearing should any of the intervenors file an objection. Because of the time constraints, objections must be filed by noon this Friday.
New Mexico’s largest electric utility is planning to reduce its baseload power while increasing power generated by renewable sources and possibly adding natural gas generation with turbines capable of producing power from hydrogen.
Baseload generation provides a relatively steady supply of power. Currently, Public Service Company of New Mexico, or PNM, relies on coal-fired power plants and a nuclear generating station to provide baseload power. The company filed a 2020 integrated resource plan with the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission in January and is awaiting approval includes exiting coal in 2024 and reducing its capacity in Palo Verde Generating Station, which provides nuclear power.
An integrated resource plan is essentially a roadmap looking at where the utility wants to be in the future.
While the plans provide a roadmap for going forward, they are not a set-in-stone path. PNM’s 2014 integrated resource plan indicated the San Juan Generating Station would remain operating until 2053. Three years later, the utility announced that it would close the coal-fired power plant in 2022.
This week, the Solar Foundation released its 2016 job census. Nationally, solar was the top source of newly-installed energy capacity. Environment New Mexico Executive Director Sanders Moore pointed out that at the end of last year, there were nearly 3,000 New Mexicans working in the solar industry. Women hold just under half those jobs, 33 percent of the workers are Latino or Hispanic, and almost 9 percent are veterans. Unlike many other economic indicators, New Mexico is ahead of the curve when it comes to job growth in solar.