On Friday, March 22, New Mexico governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a new law that will position the state to obtain 100% of its electrical needs from renewable sources not later than 2050. The phase-in calls for 50% by 2030, 80% by 2040, and 100% for utility companies by 2045, with electric coops given until 2050 to comply.
Lujan Grisham campaigned on a pledge to bring renewable energy to New Mexico. Governors in Wisconsin and Colorado also campaigned on similar platforms and won, and Governor Jay Inslee of the state of Washington is pledging to rid his state of fossil fuel generating plants by 2045.
“The Energy Transition Act fundamentally changes the dynamic in New Mexico,” governor Lujan Grisham said as she signed the landmark bill. “This is a statewide effort, changing the dynamic and the outcomes, protecting future generations of New Mexicans forever,” she added according to a report by the Sante Fe New Mexican. “This legislation is a promise to future generations of New Mexicans, who will benefit from both a cleaner environment and a more robust energy economy.”
Politics means not everybody gets everything they want. In this case, critics of the bill say it amounts to a bailout for the Public Service Company of New Mexico, which is saddled with skyrocketing costs at its San Juan coal-powered generating station. PNM plans to close the facility ahead of schedule in 2022 and the new bill gives it authority to refinance its current indebtedness with new bonds at a lower interest rate that will be paid off by its customers over time. Critics also charge the new bill does not adequately compensate workers who will be affected by the transition of renewable energy.
But after a year of tough negotiations, the bill garnered support from a diverse group of backers, including PNM, environmental groups, and labor unions, all of whom see the new legislation as a step in in the right direction on the road to a clean energy future, one that is expected to see an expansion of industrial activity within the state.
For its part, PNM says it fully supported the new law and is already well along with plans to add renewable energy assets to its portfolio. “PNM is fully aware of the challenges this legislation places squarely on our company, but we know there is no better place than New Mexico to grow the renewable energy economy,” said Pat Vincent-Collawn, PNM Resources president and chief executive. She added her company will be taking the challenge head on and will work to balance “this new path forward” with the needs of its workers and customers.
Taken as a whole, the new law is one of the strongest renewable energy commitments in the United States, rivaling those already enacted by California and Hawaii. The American West has often been seen as opposed to renewables, but with New Mexico, Colorado, and Nevada now leading the way, that is no longer the case.