New Mexico’s Senate Conservation Committee recently passed a community solar bill that will allow developers to construct new facilities throughout the state. The bill was part of a late-January meeting and drew much debate from legislators. In a new attempt at getting the bill to pass, the Senate created a task force that helped draft the latest version of SB 84, the Community Solar Act.
The bill was presented by Democratic Senator Liz Stefanics. According to SB 84, the Public Regulation Commission will regulate rules for new community solar programs. The community solar bill would be directly responsible for homeowners and small businesses being able to subscribe to installations built at an anchor location.
According to Stefanics, the bill was introduced as a means of making solar available to all. Without community solar, homeowners are required to build private solar panels. It’s a costly endeavour that requires frequent upkeep and ample rooftop space. Through community solar, homeowners, tenants, and small businesses can subscribe to a facility and receive electricity directly from the local grid.
The task force responsible for SB 84 was bipartisan and comprised of solar advocates, representatives of New Mexico’s utilities, state legislators, and members of the community. The All Pueblo Council of Governors also provided input, which was introduced into the new bill. Stefanics clarified that the goal was to include anyone that showed interest in being part of the task force.
According to the University of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research, the new bill could result in economic benefits totaling $500 million. Any developments completed because of the bill is also expected to bring in upwards of 4,000 jobs over the next five years.
Though the community solar bill did pass, it also had its opposition. New Mexico’s largest provider of electricity, PNM, and the state’s Chamber of Commerce showed concerns over the bill’s interference with the Energy Transition Act (ETA). ETA called for New Mexico to rely on 80% renewable energy and a switch to 100% carbon-free energy. However, proponents of the bill feel ETA is antiquated and the new bill will serve the community better.
SB 84 passed with a 7-4 vote and is in the hands of the House committee.