More New Mexicans may choose to use renewable energy to power their homes after the Public Regulatory Commission adopts a one-year rule. The new Community Solar Rule, enacted in April 2021 and adopted by the PRC on March 30, 2022, will mandate the distribution of 30% of electricity generated by common solar installations to low-income communities and organizations that support them.
Those who may benefit from this rule include those who are eligible for Medicaid or nutritional assistance programs. It also does not restrict solar energy options for those who rent out their property or live in government-funded apartments. Appropriate service organizations may include places such as shelters for the homeless or food warehouses.
Dylan Connelly, commercial and community development director at Affordable Solar and a volunteer in the 350 New Mexico energy activism group, has been closely involved in community solar energy and its application. He described how solar energy is currently inaccessible to New Mexicans.
“Only 3-4% of homes in New Mexico have solar energy on their roofs,” he said. Putting it on your roof costs between $ 20,000 and $ 40,000. You can finance it over time, but you have to have a really good loan, ”Connelly said.
According to Christopher Hall, executive director of Public Regulatory Commissioner Joseph Maestas, community solar energy means a wider range of New Mexicans can participate in the energy transition process and efforts to stop the use of fossil fuels, not just those who can afford it. assistant.
“Just because they can’t afford to put it on the roof, or because they don’t have their own homes, shouldn’t be an obstacle to accessing renewable energy,” Hall said.
In terms of how the community sun actually looks to those who benefit from it, Connelly said low-income individuals could save up to $ 40 a month on electricity bills due to legislative changes, although supply chain problems could increase equipment costs. you reduced the discount.
Community Sun is a pilot program and is subject to change. Until reconsidered in 2024, power output should not exceed 200 megawatts, Connelly said, which has become a project to develop about 40 solar installations. Because there are so many New Mexicans ready to go green, China has compiled a list to help them prioritize who will build and operate the new solar plants. One of such priorities includes services or businesses belonging to vulnerable groups such as women, veterans and Native Americans.
“Convinced that color communities, low-income communities, and Native American tribes are not left behind, I think this is an important aspect of community sunshine,” Hall said.
Maestas described the adoption of the Community Solar Act as “the end of a long legislative path.”
“It was very political, and the utilities owned by cooperatives and investors came together against the community sun,” Maestas said.
Utility companies owned by investors are companies owned by shareholders for profit. There are three IOUs operating in New Mexico: New Mexico Public Services Company, El Paso Electric and Xcel Energy.
Connelly attributes this opposition to the potential threat posed by community solar projects to the utility business model.
Despite the difficulties, the community’s push for solar energy has been successful thanks to key participants. Both Connelly and Maestas praised legislator Liz Stefanics, DN.M., who played a key role in the regulatory process to allow community sunshine to take place. Maestas is also represented by Patricia Roybal Caballero, DN.M. and noted the efforts of lawyers working behind the scenes on this issue outside the government.
According to Maestas, if we look beyond the solar victory of the society, which should come into force in early June, the transition to green energy in New Mexico is on a long schedule.
“The ultimate goal for investor-owned utilities (Energy Transition Act) is to free 100% of energy resources from carbon by 2045,” he said. Electric cooperatives must be carbon-free, including 80% renewable energy. in that, by 2050, “Maestas said.
According to Connelly, there is not enough incentive to switch to utilities, and the transition to renewable energy is not fast enough.
“Climate change is a very strange thing that people have to fight for, because there is a deadline. Otherwise, the longer you wait, the more exponentially there will be suffering, ”Connelly said.
Nell Johnson is an independent correspondent for the Daily Lobo. You can contact him at [email protected] or Twitter @peachnells