Santa Fe New Mexican: A new energy future for New Mexico

Powered by a huge and nearly unique solar and wind resource, New Mexico has the ability to create an entirely new energy industry — right now.

This new renewable energy industry would be located primarily in rural communities, creating thousands of new, high-paying, local jobs and benefiting rural communities around the state. By using these clean energy resources to provide lower-cost electric power for electric vehicles, we can significantly reduce transportation and energy costs and greatly limit carbon pollution.

Advances in solar technology efficiency and cost reductions due to the growth of solar production capacity have reduced solar power costs significantly. At the same time, New Mexico stands with only Nevada and Arizona in the United States in having an abundant solar potential that can provide year-round electric power at a cost below that from fossil fuel generation. Add New Mexico’s wind potential to this mix, and New Mexico has the potential to become the leader in American per capita renewable energy production.

Despite these advantages, to date, less than 5 percent of the state’s electric generation is provided by solar facilities.

If 50 percent of New Mexico’s 1.6 million registered vehicles (or approximately 800 thousand cars and pickups) were powered by electric generation, instead of gasoline and diesel fuels, New Mexico could find an outlet for the state’s huge renewable energy potential.

Switching 50 percent of our transportation fleet to electric vehicles, powered by locally produced solar and wind electricity, would save New Mexicans nearly $900 million in fuel costs each year and keep these funds invested in New Mexico. Charging electric vehicles costs only about 25 percent as much as using gasoline and diesel fuel and saves drivers approximately $15,000 over the life of a vehicle.

Expanding New Mexico’s electric generation capacity to power 50 percent of the state’s current vehicle fleet would increase the state’s electric generation capacity by over 2,000 megawatts and provide a total of nearly 4,000 MW of new solar and wind generation, including the planned replacement of current fossil fuel generation.

Building, operating and maintaining 4,000 MW of new solar and wind generation in New Mexico would bring approximately $6 billion in new investment to the state and create over 40,000 new jobs in New Mexico.

Building these renewable resource facilities in rural areas throughout the state would provide ranchers and farmers with a major source of new lease income (approximately $800 million) and rural governments with new tax revenues for local hospitals and schools (approximately $300 million) while leading to approximately $1.2 billion in new spending for local jobs in project construction, operations and facility maintenance in New Mexico’s rural communities and pueblos.

The state of New Mexico can help make this a reality, replacing the state motor vehicle pool with electric vehicles, providing state land for renewable energy facilities, and providing tax credits for electric vehicles and renewable energy generating facilities. Why not even encourage electric vehicle manufacturers to build their vehicles here?

The private sector and private markets should be allowed to take the lead in developing these resources, and the state should end restrictions on the establishment of electric vehicle dealerships and on the private ownership of wind and solar generating stations by independent power producers.

New Mexico has abundant and nearly unique solar and wind natural resources. Developing these resources can lead New Mexico to a high-tech future few other states can match, providing new jobs and economic development in its rural communities — right now!

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