Why NM Legislators Should Vote for HB 210
Committees: First House Energy, Environment & Natural Resources; then House Judiciary
Summary: Under current law, electrical utility companies are legal monopolies that control the solar market, and it’s illegal for a city, county, or tribe to establish solar facilities without the utility’s approval. With this Act, a city, county, tribe, for-profit or nonprofit entity, or “low-income service organization” can construct, own, or operate community solar generation facilities, or contract with others to do so. Customers who cannot afford solar panels can purchase a share, which is then credited to their monthly electric bill. The Act encourages discounted shares for low-income customers. Utilities will continue to charge and profit from distribution, system integration, and customer service costs. Non-subscribing customers will not subsidize solar facility costs or subscriptions.
History: In 2017, the Senate Conservation Committee recommended Do Pass on a similar bill, SB 342, but the Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee then took no action. With HB 338, the same bill in the House, the House State Govt., Indian & Veterans’ Affairs Committee and the House Judiciary Committee recommended Do Pass. The bill died on the House floor (31-34).
Why This Bill Is Good for NM
- New Mexicans want community solar. In Retake’s 2018 survey of 1,300 New Mexicans, 92% strongly approve or approve of this bill, favoring energy choice and freedom, and favoring replacing fossil fuel generation and the resulting water and air pollution.
- Community solar would bring the many benefits of solar power to customers who cannot erect (such as apartment dwellers) or afford panels.
- Expanding solar power will boost a wide range of family-supporting jobs including solar installers, designers, and electricians in local New Mexico communities.
- Solar garden facilities aggregate customers into larger projects so that installation and generation costs are shared and reduced through economies of scale.
- Because Community Solar arrays are local, transmission loss is avoided.
- Passing the Community Solar Act will create competition, encourage innovation, and demonstrate the benefits of solar power.
- This bill, unlike the 2017 bills, specifies several potential costs that utilities can recover, such as power transmission. With the addition of these cost recovery features, utilities are more likely to support Community Solar.
- One reason frequently given for opposing solar development is that non-solar customers end up subsidizing the solar customers. However, this bill specifies that “Non-subscribing customers will not subsidize solar facility costs and subscriptions.”
- New Energy Economy
- Sierra Club
- Coalition of Sustainable Communities NM