New Mexico Embraces Fossil Fuel-Free Future

Today, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed historic legislation that places New Mexico at the forefront of the clean energy movement.

The Energy Transition Act (SB 489) sets a mandate of 100 percent carbon-free energy for the entire state. The Land of Enchantment now joins California and Hawaii in establishing this standard. Notably, the bill also supports communities that will be affected by the move away from fossil fuels in addition to setting bold milestones to scale up to 100 percent.

As New Mexico is on the front lines of the Trump administration’s attacks on people and the environment, standing up for our values is important now more than ever. New Mexicans—and our leadership—are standing up against a divisive, unnecessary border wall. We are defending our national monuments, and now, we are transitioning our state from fossil fuels to a renewable future.

Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter with Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham

Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter staff with the governor. From left to right: Derrick Toledo, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Camilla Feibelman, Brittany Fallon, Miya King-Flaherty

The Energy Transition Act was introduced in February and was passed by the state legislature last week with large majorities in both houses. The legislation will make electricity generation 100 percent carbon-free by 2045 from the state’s investor-owned utilities, and for all rural cooperative utilities by 2050. Here are some other highlights of the bill:

  • Reduces PNM customers’ rates while providing a path to retire old, polluting coal-fired power plants

  • Requires PNM, El Paso Electric, and Southwest Public Service (the state’s investor-owned utilities) to provide:

    • 50 percent renewable energy by 2030

    • 80 percent renewable energy by 2040

    • 100 percent carbon-free energy by 2045

  • Provides $40 million for economic development for San Juan County, where a large coal-fired power plant will be retired, as well as for severance packages and worker training for plant and mine employees

  • Provides workforce training and requires federally recognized apprenticeships prioritizing workers in disadvantaged communities in all new energy development in the state

  • Directs 450 megawatts of replacement power to be built in San Juan County, an investment worth about $400 million that will replace the lost property-tax base for the community and its schools after the coal plant closes

  • Provides at least $30 million for cleanup and remediation on top of the existing remediation fund

  • Requires rural co-ops to provide:

    • 50 percent renewable energy by 2030

    • 80 percent renewables and 100 percent carbon-free energy by 2050

Solar, wind, and battery storage economics are rapidly becoming cheaper than fossil fuels. A recent study commissioned by the Sierra Club shows that it will be most economic for the state’s largest utility, PNM, to replace energy from the San Juan coal plant with batteries plus renewables rather than natural gas. Under the Energy Transition Act, the Palo Verde nuclear plant in Arizona, used by two New Mexico utilities, will also shut down on schedule as the state ramps up on renewables.  

As this legislative session comes to a close in New Mexico, a brighter future rises. I’m excited by our state’s leadership and inspired by the communities who have come together to imagine a better energy future for all New Mexicans.

Since taking office in January, Gov. Lujan Grisham has gone straight to work developing her legacy as a champion for New Mexico communities and a livable climate. She joined New Mexico to the U.S. Climate Alliance in an early executive order. By signing the Energy Transition Act, she’s walking the walk – or rather, climbing the climb – to preserve New Mexico’s unique quality of life for future generations.

New Mexico also emerges as a leader in a pack of states considering ambitious climate and clean energy legislation this year. Several, including Washington, Nevada, Minnesota, Illinois, New York and Florida, have already introduced 100 percent clean energy bills in 2019.

Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter at signing of Energy Transition Act

At the beginning of this legislative session, we and partners gathered more than 400 people for a Clean Energy Conference and Lobby Day. These grassroots lobbyists heard from the governor and legislative sponsors on an array of climate-related bills and then acted to see meaningful action. Over the last two years our coalition has worked to develop legislation that protects workers and the community, and leads our state in the renewables future. But the key to achieving this has been electing a governor and legislative leadership who were willing to convene the stakeholders and bring utilities further that they’ve ever been willing to go.

As this legislative session comes to a close in New Mexico, a brighter future rises. I’m excited by our state’s leadership and inspired by the communities who have come together to imagine a better energy future for all New Mexicans.

Learn more about this bill and take action here! And, share the news on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.


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