New Mexico Ranks 5th in the Nation in Solar Power

Environment New Mexico Research & Policy Center

Albuquqerque – Today, Environment New Mexico Research & Policy Center released Lighting the Way: What We Can Learn from America’s Top 12 Solar States, a new report highlighting a solar energy boom across the country. The report ranks New Mexico fifth in the nation per capita for solar installations. This makes New Mexico one of a dozen states that have led the nation in solar energy with supportive policies and a commitment to continued expansion. Last year, solar capacity in New Mexico grew by 12% bringing it to a total of 190 Megawatts.

“The sky’s the limit on solar energy,” said Sanders Moore, director of Environment New Mexico Research & Policy Center. “New Mexico’s progress should make us confident that we can do much more. Our message today is clear: If you want your state to be a leader in pollution-free solar energy, set big goals and get good policies on the books.”

Solar is on the rise across the country. America has more than three times as much solar photovoltaic capacity as it did in 2010, and more than 10 times as much as it did in 2007. Not only that, but the price of solar panels fell by 26 percent in 2012. Environment New Mexico Research & Policy Center attributes the solar boom to the leadership of New Mexico officials and those in other leading states profiled in the report.

“More and more, homes and businesses are turning to solar as a pollution-free energy source with no fuel costs,” said Moore. “With the increasing threat of global warming, we must maintain momentum.”

The report emphasizes that it is not availability of sunlight that makes states solar leaders, but the degree to which state and local governments have created effective public policy for the development of the solar industry.

Other states profiled in the report include: Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina and Vermont.

While these twelve states account for only 28 percent of the U.S. population, they make up 85 percent of the nation’s installed solar energy.

The report highlights the strong policies adopted by the top solar states that encouraged homeowners and businesses to “go solar.” Most notably:

  • 11 of the 12 have strong net metering policies, which allow customers to offset their electricity bills with onsite solar, and receive reliable and fair compensation for the excess electricity they provide to the grid.
  • 11 of the 12 states have renewable electricity standards, requiring utilities to provide a minimum amount of their power from renewable sources; and nine of them have solar carve outs, which set specific targets for solar or other forms of clean onsite power.
  • 10 of the 12 have strong statewide interconnection policies. Interconnection policies reduce the time and hassle required for individuals and companies to connect solar energy systems to the grid.
  • The majority of the states allow for creative financing options such as third-party power purchase agreements and property assessed clean energy (PACE) financing.

Environment New Mexico Research & Policy Center was joined by Jason Marks, former Public Regulatory Commissioner in releasing the report.

“Given the size and quality of New Mexico’s solar resources, the rapidly dropping costs for panels, and the overwhelming public support for more solar generation in New Mexico, it’s mind-boggling that the current PRC is looking at rolling back the policies discussed in this new report that made our state a national solar leader,” stated Marks.

“Today we gather to celebrate the solar success of our state but also to remember that we cannot lose the momentum we have gained,” concluded Moore. “Right now only a small fraction of our energy comes from solar. By setting a bold goal of getting 10 percent of our energy from the sun by 2020, and adopting strong policies to back up that goal,  New Mexico can and will maintain the momentum it has gained and continue to pave the way for the rest of the country. In order to achieve this goal, we need the continued commitment from our state leaders to keep enabling policies to further increase solar development in New Mexico.”