There’s a common misconception that 100% renewable energy goals are reserved for the coastal states, the blue states, and the ultra-progressive states. But watch out California and D.C., because the Southwest is stepping up to give its own renewable energy economy a much-needed boost.
Deep in the heart of the American Southwest, New Mexico boasts over 300 days of sunshine per year. Not only all these sunny days a big perk for local tourism, but they’re also helping the state completely transition to clean, renewable energy by 2050.
New Mexico’s governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, recently signed a new law committing the state to meet 50% of its electrical needs with renewable sources by 2030, 80% by 2040, 100% of utility companies by 2045, and all remaining electrical coops by 2050. The New Mexico senate passed the Energy Transition Act (SB 489) in a 32-9 vote in early March, which followed a favorable House vote of 43-22.
Achieving this statewide commitment hasn’t been easy, and fighting critics of the bill has often been an uphill battle. Yet amidst concerns that it unfairly bails the Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) out of debt and doesn’t compensate affected workers well enough, hope of a more sustainable energy economy has emerged as the top priority.
The climate change-fighting effort in New Mexico will involve shutting down the coal assets of PNM, including the 847-megawatt San Juan coal plant within three years. The Four Corners plant will shut down by 2031, further driving down the state’s coal-fired power generation. Something unique about New Mexico’s new legislation is that it will still allow the state to get energy from the Palo Verde nuclear plant because unlike laws passed in other U.S. cities and states, geothermal power is still allowed here.
Communities in Northwest New Mexico have been hardest hit by the news of coal plant closures, so one big challenge now is transitioning local coal workers to clean energy jobs. Meanwhile, other challenges lie in increasing the number of grid storage facilities and making battery storage devices better suited for the transition. However, the political community in New Mexico is a close-knit one, and there has an overwhelming show of support for renewable energy thus far.
There’s a lot of hope and excitement in the air in New Mexico right now because of the ample solar and wind resources already available and growing rapidly here. Soon you’ll be seeing more solar panels and wind turbines along these desert highways and rugged backroads, helping the state truly live up to its nickname, the “Land of Enchantment.”