After almost a decade of work since the initial introduction of the concept, Senate Bill 84, the Community Solar Act, passed the Legislature by an overwhelming margin and now sits on Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk. This is a critical piece of legislation that is the result of many years of consensus-building, and the governor should waste no time signing the bill into law.
This past summer and fall, we conducted a stakeholder process that engaged 90 participants on a wide variety of topics aimed at crafting a community solar bill that works best for all New Mexicans and our electric grid. We had representatives from state, local and tribal governments, utilities, nongovernmental organizations, solar companies and average citizens. The result was a consensus-based bill that eventually included a compromise with the investor-owned utilities on amendments that switched their position from opposition to neutral.
Coming to agreement with the utilities is exactly what the governor has been asking for, and we are grateful for her leadership and guidance that led to
SB 84 achieving consensus.
The bill also contains a three-year comprehensive evaluation by the Public Regulation Commission to make sure community solar is designed to work for all New Mexicans and the grid and is helping achieve the ambitious goals the governor has established in her Energy Transition Act.
Community solar provides an important complement to the Energy Transition Act. It will deploy distributed clean energy projects across the state more quickly. It helps reduce the overall cost of transitioning to a clean grid by pairing distributed generation with utility-scale resources, and it ensures the benefits of clean energy are being delivered to disenfranchised communities previously left out of the clean energy revolution.
This includes a mandate that 30 percent of all community solar energy benefits low-income households and protects the rights of tribes and pueblos to develop their own projects. The Community Solar Act will ensure New Mexico’s energy transition happens more quickly at the lowest cost in a way that is equitable and just.
The Community Solar Act also will give New Mexico an immediate economic boost when we need it most. According to an economic study performed by the University of New Mexico, community solar can create thousands of local jobs, hundreds of millions of dollars in local economic development and generate millions in annual tax revenue to the state.
The bill also aligns with the Biden administration’s support for community solar, plans to Build Back Better, and its goals around infrastructure, jobs, climate and equity.
Thus, it should come as no surprise that community solar enjoys overwhelming public support. The bill passed the House and Senate by significant majorities with no Democrats voting in opposition to the final bills. It also enjoys a groundswell of public support throughout the state, in both urban and rural communities, and its being endorsed by one of the state’s largest, most diverse coalitions to ever back an energy program.
By signing this bill, the governor can ensure all New Mexicans will benefit from solar energy. She can ensure a quicker buildout of the state’s distributed clean energy infrastructure thus ensuring the lowest cost buildout of the state’s clean electric grid. And she can rebuild New Mexico’s economy and rural communities with clean, locally produced community solar.
Implementing this consensus bill is long overdue. We kindly urge the governor to sign the Community Solar Act to democratize New Mexico’s energy sector and add our name to the list of over 20 states benefiting from community solar nationally.