Santa Fe, NM – Senate Bill 84, enabling legislation to bring community solar to New Mexico, passed the full Senate yesterday 27-14. The bill is assigned to both the Energy, Environment & Natural Resources and State Government, Elections, & Indian Affairs committees in the state House. This is the first time a community solar bill has passed the full state Senate.
“All New Mexicans deserve to benefit from the renewable energy transition and have access to solar savings. Community solar provides a pathway,” said Ben Shelton, Political & Policy Director for Conservation Voters New Mexico. “I’m glad to see the Senate come together to support the creation of a robust community solar program in New Mexico. The work now falls to the House to ensure that this bill gets to the Governor’s desk in a timely fashion.”
Community solar is supported by a broad coalition that includes elected officials, local industry, agriculture, clean energy advocates, leaders from Tribes and Pueblos, businesses and consumers. The SOLution New Mexico coalition submitted over 1,100 letters and petitions to state legislators from New Mexicans supporting the bill.
“Gaining the endorsement of the Senate after our months-long Senate-led stakeholder engagement working group is a huge milestone,” said Mayane Barudin, Interior West Director & Tribal Liaison at Vote Solar, a member of the SOLution New Mexico coalition. “The Senate Memorial Working Group process engaged New Mexicans from many backgrounds and industries, and the hard work of consultation has paid off. The Tribal Community Solar Task Force also ensures that community solar legislation benefits Tribes to serve as leaders in the just energy transition. Together, we can make community solar a reality for all New Mexicans.”
A recent 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.
“Today was a major step forward in bringing community solar to New Mexico and a testament to the hard work put in by Senators Stefanics and Lopez crafting a bill that works for all New Mexicans,” said Kevin Cray, Mountain West Regional Director for Coalition for Community Solar Access. “After almost a decade of consideration, the Senate listened to the groundswell of support across the state and voted for a cleaner, more cost-effective grid for the state. We urge the House to do the same and send this bill to the Governor.”
While 20 other states as well as the District of Columbia permit such projects, New Mexico utility rules prevent similar installations across the state. The bill would authorize 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 the legislation would not increase taxes.
“Our local governments – cities, counties and tribal governments – in addition to their constituents, have much to gain from community solar, as it will open up a new avenue for participating in the solar revolution. Now is the time to finally adopt this common sense concept from which 20 other states have benefited. We are grateful that the Senate understood the magnitude of this opportunity; now we await a similar treatment in the House and from our Governor,” said Beth Beloff, Executive Director, Coalition of Sustainable Communities New Mexico.
Senate Bill 84 and House Bill 106 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. The bill sponsors spent the summer listening to a diverse array of stakeholders through a Senate mandated working group to craft a bill that ensures all New Mexicans will benefit from the community solar program. The bill previously passed the Senate Taxes, Business and Transportation Committee 5-4 and the Senate Conservation Committee 6-3.