Albuquerque, NM – A new study conducted by the University of New Mexico Bureau of Business & Economic Research (BBER) found that the construction and operation of new community solar facilities could generate an estimated $517 million in economic benefits and support more than 3,760 high-quality jobs in various sectors across New Mexico over the next five years.
According to the study, community solar projects could generate over $2.9 million in tax revenues annually for the state, revenue that would be funded by private companies and not require increased taxes or state investment. The study also calculated impact at the county level and found the average economic benefit per county over a 20-year period is almost $15 million in economic output and 117 new jobs.
“Community Solar has the potential to contribute substantially to New Mexico’s economy,” according to the BBER report. “As a new application of renewable energy initiatives in New Mexico, community solar projects could create opportunities for workers affected by the closure of energy plants reliant on fossil fuels. In addition to the environmental benefits associated with renewable energy, these projects can potentially provide economic benefits through jobs creation and the expansion of fiscal revenues.”
According to the analysis, the top statewide sectors expected to benefit from community solar include construction, restaurants, professional services, real estate, retail and healthcare which have been among the hardest hit in the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This study makes clear that community solar would create a significant economic windfall across New Mexico,” said Kevin Cray, Mountain West Regional Director for Coalition for Community Solar Access. “At a time when state budgets are depleted and regular New Mexicans are struggling financially, community solar offers legislators an opportunity to
immediately stimulate the economy, save all ratepayers money, and help accelerate the state’s transition to renewable energy, all without costing taxpayers a dime.”
Legislation pending in both the state House of Representatives and Senate would authorize the creation of community solar projects, which refer to small, local solar facilities shared by multiple community subscribers who receive credit on their electricity bills for their share of the power produced. Participation in community solar is voluntary and passage of the legislation would not increase taxes or state investment.
While 20 other states as well as the District of Columbia permit such projects, New Mexico utility rules prevent similar installations across the state.
Senate Bill 84 and House Bill 106 which are being sponsored by Senator Elizabeth “Liz” Stefanics (D- Bernalillo, Lincoln, San Miguel, Santa Fe, Torrance, Valencia) and Senator Linda M. Lopez (D-Bernalillo) on the Senate side and Representative Patricia Roybal Caballero (D Bernalillo) on the House side, would eliminate regulatory red tape and create a community solar program that enables New Mexico businesses and families to sign up for community solar projects, regardless of their income level or whether they own their home.
“The financial fallout from the COVID-19 crisis is laying bare the everyday crisis of unaffordable, and yet essential, electricity in New Mexico,” said Mayane Barudin, Interior West Director & Tribal Liaison at Vote Solar, a member of the SOLution New Mexico coalition. “The individual, local and state financial benefits laid out in this report demonstrate how community solar can play an important role in addressing the very real tradeoffs that many New Mexicans are being forced to make.”
“For too long the benefits of a clean energy transition have escaped the reach of low and moderate-income families. Today, we are glad to stand with our partners in New Mexico to support community solar legislation that centers equity and access,” said Luis Nasvytis Torres, Senior Legislative Representative, Earthjustice. “Every New Mexico low and moderate-income family should have access to the benefits of a clean energy future and we are hopeful about community solar becoming a reality in New Mexico.”
According to the BBER report: “Community solar projects not only offer a way for low-income residents and non-homeowners to purchase their electricity from renewable resources but also can benefit homeowners and businesses who are unable to install solar panels on their property. Community solar projects also provide lease dollars for fallow lands. Many renewable installations require open, unobstructed space to maximize energy production; however, as community solar installations are smaller in scale, their development could provide benefits to landowners who might be overlooked in larger utility projects.”
“Community solar offers a winning strategy for our state: it supports our communities in job growth and tax revenues, our tribal entities in creating economic opportunities, and our individuals and businesses in access to affordable solar energy. These benefits, confirmed by this study, should encourage our politicians to finally say yes to community solar legislation,” said Beth Beloff, Executive Director of the Coalition of Sustainable Communities New Mexico.
University of New Mexico Bureau of Business & Economic Research conducted the study in December 2020 on behalf of Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA), a member of SOLution New Mexico, a local coalition looking to bring community solar to New Mexico. The full report can be found here.