Three state legislators, representing different political parties and different communities across New Mexico deserve credit for understanding the urgent need for new transmission infrastructure to maximize the economic, environmental and community benefits of renewable energy development.
State Sen. Jacob Candelaria, a Democrat from Albuquerque, State Sen. Steven Neville, a Republican from Aztec and State Rep. Nathan Small, a Democrat from Las Cruces have drafted legislation to treat transmission infrastructure like other economic development projects and allow cities and counties to use industrial revenue bonds (IRBs) to help finance and tailor projects to local needs.
Senate Bill 6 and House Bill 50 are urgently needed to accelerate the construction of new transmission infrastructure that connects our rich wind and solar resources with in-state and out-of-state markets. It is important the legislature approves the use of IRBs for electric transmission facilities this session.
Wind and solar energy development in New Mexico has been community driven from the start, with a focus on ensuring that renewable energy companies attracted by our world class energy potential invest here to support healthy, thriving communities with family-wage jobs, respect for our unique heritage and a commitment to New Mexicans’ cherished air, land and water.
Before your eyes glaze over at the mention of IRBs, you should understand the critical role they play empowering New Mexico cities and counties in guiding the economic growth and vitality of their communities and ensuring that economic development projects, like wind and solar energy, are tailored to the needs of local communities.
When a community utilizes IRBs for wind and solar projects, it is able to negotiate long-term payments from developers to improve schools, roads and other local services. Cities and counties should have the same opportunity to be at the table with the developers of transmission projects, maximizing local benefits and helping move projects forward.
Our state has benefited by attracting more than $3 billion of capital investment in renewable energy projects that produce enough clean, carbon-free electricity to power more than 700,000 homes. The industry is helping keep farm and ranch families on the land and create family-wage jobs that give our young people the chance to stay put and make a living. Besides thousands of jobs in construction and maintenance, renewable energy’s reach includes researchers at our world class laboratories and universities, a growing number of engineers and wind technicians, environmental scientists and new revenue for small town businesses and services.
However, to maximize the benefits of a renewable energy future for all of New Mexico we need new transmission infrastructure. Our state is poised for tremendous additional investment in renewable generation, but without public understanding of the need for new transmission and a commitment to get lines permitted and built, New Mexico will lose out billions of dollars of new generation projects and the jobs and local economic activity they stimulate.
We’ve only just begun to realize the potential for renewable generation in New Mexico. Senate Bill 6 and House Bill 50 are an important step forward in giving local communities the economic development tools they need to grow. By redoubling our efforts to get needed transmission infrastructure in place, we can build on this successful start to diversifying our economy and benefiting all New Mexicans.
Tim Raphael is State Coordinator of ReNew Mexico, a citizen-driven group dedicated to supporting the development of renewable energy projects and related infrastructure throughout New Mexico.