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January 11, 2013

New Mexico Chooses More Solar Power

SolarRecently the New Mexico Public Regulatory Commission chose to continue the state’s leadership on clean energy investments when it approved a measure on solar power:

The Public Regulation Commission (last month) approved a new way...for utilities to calculate renewable energy costs but kept the current price caps that limit the impact on consumers.

The commission also voted to maintain "diversity requirements" that obligate utilities to buy a specific percentage of solar, wind and other sources when complying with the state’s renewable portfolio standard. And they supported inclusion of savings from avoided fossil-fuel purchases and new plant construction when utilities calculate net costs for procuring renewable energy.
Developing a wide variety of energy sources is simply a smart business decision so that New Mexicans are not dependent on just one or two resources that are subject to the whims of the market. And keeping a minimum percentage of solar energy on the grid will be most affordable and reliable for all customers in the long term.
We especially want to recognize Public Regulation Commissioner Jason Marks for his commitment to clean energy during his term  - he is the one who initiated the diversity rule for solar energy several years ago. Marks has done an incredible job protecting New Mexico residents during his terms. We’re happy to see an elected official work so hard for our state’s clean energy economy.

In New Mexico and beyond, Americans know that clean energy like solar and wind power are the best ways to protect our children and future generations from climate disruption's effects. We've already seen the devastation wrought from severe drought and wildfires in our region.

Choosing clean energy over dirty fossil fuels is also trending across the Southwest. In this region, where solar power is at its greatest potential, coal-fired power is on the decline. The trend among utilities in the Southwest is to switch from coal-fired power to cleaner burning fuels and renewable energy.

New Mexico's neighboring states like Arizona and Texas are already making the switch to renewable energy and other clean energy alternatives.

For example, in Arizona, all three major utilities are expected meet or exceed their 2012 milestone of 3.5% solar in 2012.

Over in Texas, the City of San Antonio adopted a Strategic Energy Plan to get 20% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. The city utility is requesting 450 megawatts of solar power with two local businesses -- which will create 800 long-term jobs. The deal is worth an estimated $700 million. The first 50 MW of solar are expected to come online this year, while the next 400 MW will take four years to be operational.

Not only is using coal power dangerous to public health and the environment, but it's also a bad economic choice.

Coal-fired power has both increased in price and been outcompeted by cleaner energy sources. In the last five years alone, coal, as a percentage of power generation, has dropped from nearly 50% to a month-to-month low of 37.5%. As coal fired power gets more expensive, utilities are choosing to replace or retire their aging fleet.

In the journal American Economic Review, a study by three well-known and well-regarded economists from Yale and Middlebury College found that: "The largest industrial contributor to external costs is coal-fired electric generation, whose damages range from 0.8 to 5.6 times value added." That would make coal the most expensive source of electricity once external costs are considered.

New Mexico can be a leader in clean energy, and we're happy to see the state Public Regulatory Commission choose a better economy and public health through more renewable power.

-- Nellis Kennedy-Howard, Campaign Representative for New Mexico Beyond Coal Campaign

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