New Mexico Moves Forward on Solar Despite Nationally Coordinated Attacks

Environment New Mexico Research & Policy Center

ALBUQUERQUE, NM – A new report by Environment New Mexico Research & Policy Center, Blocking the Sun:12 Utilities and Fossil Fuel Interests That Are Undermining American Solar Power, highlights a national network of utility interest groups and fossil-fuel industry-funded think tanks that provide funding, model legislation, and political cover for anti-solar campaigns across the country.

The American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, gives the fossil fuel and utility industry direct access to lawmakers—including those here in New Mexico. During the 2011, 2013, and 2015 legislative sessions, conservative sponsors introduced a bill that modeled ALEC’s “Electricity Freedom Act”—legislation designed to repeal renewable energy standards (RES) in New Mexico. Though similar legislation was introduced in 18 additional states—and even proved successful in a few—the popularity of RES legislation in New Mexico prevented the success of this regressive bill every single year.

“ALEC aggressively generates anti-renewable energy model legislation in an attempt to undermine solar power in places like New Mexico,” said Poremba. “Our report underscores just how extensively they promote the use of this tactic across the country.”

In the last two years alone, New Mexico’s per-capita solar energy capacity has grown by 37%—an increase that has generated wider access to clean energy at increasingly affordable prices.

New Mexico’s solar boom is largely the result of bold, forward-thinking public policies that have created a strong solar industry and has put solar energy within the financial reach of a growing number of homes, businesses, and communities. One of such policies is the 10% tax credit allocated for the installation of commercial, residential, and agricultural solar systems.

“Already, solar has been made affordable to 5,500 New Mexican homeowners and families through the state’s solar tax credit,” said State Senator Mimi Stewart. “It is imperative that we extend this credit during the legislative session next year in order to ensure that this opportunity is maintained for all New Mexicans for years to come.”

In neighboring Arizona, progress in the development of solar energy has been undermined by the state’s largest utility, Arizona Public Service (APS). APS undertook extensive efforts impose high costs on its solar customers—most directly through a mandated solar interconnection fee for solar homeowners. But when the largest utility in New Mexico, the Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM), proposed a similar interconnection fee, public backlash quickly forced PNM to revoke it.

These regressive efforts to tear down pro-solar policy—along with several others—are documented in detail in Blocking the Sun. Though these efforts have gained relative traction elsewhere, New Mexicans have repeatedly demonstrated that they will not stand for such attacks on this clean and abundant resource.

“Overwhelmingly, New Mexicans support pro-solar policies.” said Poremba, “As a state, we must continue to reject these attacks and support the development of a clean energy future.”