New Mexico Falling Behind other Leading Solar States

Environment New Mexico Research & Policy Center

Albuquerque, NM – New Mexico is falling behind a majority of states in an annual ranking of solar power capacity, despite having the technical potential to produce 1,000 times as much electricity from solar power as the state consumes each year. 

In this year’s ranking, New Mexico dropped to 13th in total solar capacity and 8th in total solar capacity per capita, after ranking 11th and 6th, respectively, last year.

Environment New Mexico Research & Policy Center’s new study, Lighting the Way 4: The Top States that Helped Drive America’s Solar Energy Boom in 2015, shows the states who ranked the highest for solar per capita were those with policies that allow increasing numbers of homeowners, businesses, communities and utilities to “go solar,” not necessarily the ones with the most sunshine. 

“The question is: will New Mexico capitalize on the growing clean energy economy with more clean energy and more local jobs, or will we fall further behind,” said Sanders Moore, director of Environment New Mexico. “We’ve got plenty of sunshine but we need leadership at all levels with a commitment to clean energy policies.”

The study’s top states for solar capacity per capita — Nevada, Hawaii, California, Arizona, North Carolina, New Jersey, Vermont, New Mexico, Massachusetts and Colorado – have for years held in common pro-clean energy policies, such as strong net metering programs and interconnection standards. However, New Mexico is falling behind other states. New Mexico’s per capita growth for solar was 91 percent from 2012 to 2015; the national per capita growth in the same time frame was 343 percent.

The New Mexico Solar Market Development Tax Credit recently ran out of funding after New Mexico’s leaders failed to extend it. Governor Susana Martinez vetoed a bi-partisan bill to extend the tax credits in 2015 and a similar bill failed to pass the Legislature in 2016.

 “It is important that we advocate for the re-instatement of the NM Solar Market Development Tax credit and preserve net metering long term so that we can continue to deliver cheap, clean renewable energy to all New Mexicans and future generations,” said Regina Wheeler, CEO of SunPower by Positive Energy Solar. “Let’s continue to build an industry that New Mexico can be proud of.”

Senator Mimi Stewart (D-Albuquerque) stated the need for New Mexico to lead the way by supporting pro-solar policies. “We need to diversify our economy so we can support growing industries that are providing jobs. New Mexico should be a leader in solar energy.”

Environment New Mexico said it was time for state leaders to allow the state to realize its vast solar potential by supporting and advancing policies that enable this clean source of energy to grow, such as community solar and reinstating the Solar Market Development Tax Credit.

“Solar power can play a major role in the biggest step our country has ever taken to address climate change while also creating local jobs,” said Moore. “That’s why our state legislators should ensure we become leaders when it comes to clean energy.”