Community Solar Power Adopted in New Mexico Adds Access to Renewable Energy

Community solar power became the law of the land in New Mexico after the Public Regulatory Commission (PRC) completed its rulemaking process and adopted the program following a lengthy process and legislative effort.

Community solar power allows electricity customers, mostly low-income or home-based renters, to tap into shared “solar gardens” that provide solar power to those who cannot afford it. purchase their own home solar panels or who do not have access to larger, large-scale installations.

The Community Solar Act was passed in the 2021 legislative session and signed into law on April 5, 2021, after similar legislation failed in previous sessions, and called on the PRC to begin drafting regulations.

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A year later, this process was complete with feedback from local stakeholders, utility companies and Indigenous groups.

The new rule created 200 megawatts of community solar capacity in the state and a policy for utility company project selection.

At least 30% of projects must serve low-income subscribers and service organizations, according to the rules.

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Proponents believed the project would help New Mexico reach its goal of using 50% renewable energy by 2030.

According to a report by the New Mexico Bureau of Economic Affairs and Research, community solar power would provide up to $517 million in economic benefits and $147 in labor income.

The regulations were to be filed with the New Mexico Registry in the coming days and would become effective within 60 days.

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PRC President Joseph Maestas said the program would help support increased use of renewable energy in New Mexico, and the rulemaking process benefited from a diversity of perspectives.

“This rule and the Community Solar projects that should soon follow are the product of a long effort by advocates of renewable energy and energy equity for all New Mexicans, and those advocates should feel justifiable pride today,” did he declare.

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Department of Energy member Arthur O’Donnell, who has worked with the PRC’s Community Solar Action Team, said the program will enable more New Mexico families and businesses to operate solar power statewide.

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He said the DOE expects to see 5 million U.S. homes using community solar power by 2025, a goal the federal agency says would create up to $1 billion in utility bill savings. energy nationwide and would advance the federal goal of 100% clean energy by 2035.

“Community Solar represents an opportunity for more New Mexico families and businesses to participate in the clean energy transition,” O’Donnell said. “Today’s order is just the beginning of the program’s implementation.”

US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said community solar power makes solar energy affordable and accessible to more users.

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“Community solar is one of the most powerful tools we have to provide affordable solar power to every American household, whether they own a home or have a solar-capable roof,” he said. she declared.

“Achieving these ambitious goals will result in significant energy cost savings, create jobs in these communities and make our transition to clean energy more equitable.”

The DOE has estimated that there are enough community solar installations to power 600,000 homes and that meeting its goal will mean a 700% increase in solar energy use over the next four years.

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Renewable energy advocacy groups have expressed support for the new regulations, saying they will help diversify New Mexico’s economy and move it away from reliance on fossil fuels.

“Expanding access to renewable energy while reducing costs, especially for our low-income households, will change lives in this state,” said Beth Beloff, executive director of the Coalition of Sustainable Communities New Mexico. .

“The PRC has done a great job throughout this process, and soon we will be able to do even more to build a prosperous and sustainable clean energy economy that benefits all New Mexicans.

New Mexico was the 21st state to adopt a community solar program, and Kevin Cray, West Mountain Regional Director of the Coalition for Community Solar Access, said the program will also reduce pollution and the environmental impact of the production and use of energy.

“This community solar program will usher in a brighter energy future that will provide customer choice as well as economic and environmental benefits to New Mexicans for years to come,” he said.

Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, [email protected] or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.

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