Bill Would Boost New Mexico Renewable Energy Exports

By Published On: February 3, 2006

New Mexico could export several thousand megawatts of renewable energy to California if legislation introduced in the Santa Fe-based legislature becomes law. With the support of Governor Bill Richardson, New Mexico lawmakers are considering identical bills that would create a Renewable Energy Transmission Authority, perhaps as early as this July. House Bill 111 and Senate Bill 317 would allow the state to build, own, and operate transmission facilities capable of supporting development of 4,000 to 6,000 MW of wind energy and 700 to 1,300 MW of solar and biomass energy. New Mexico requires 3,000 to 4,000 MW of renewable energy for its own needs. The rest could be exported to states such as Arizona and California. The measures’ renewable energy authority would plan, finance, acquire, maintain, and operate transmission and storage facilities across New Mexico. It also would be empowered to negotiate with entities outside the state to further open renewable energy markets. The legislation calls for at least 30 percent of the electric energy transmitted or stored on authority transmission lines to originate from renewable energy sources. It also bars the authority from pursuing projects already initiated by a utility or other private-sector entity. The New Mexico bill holds promise, but California’s renewables portfolio standard favors developing green power resources within California, said Todd Thorner, vice-president of business development for San Francisco-based Foresight Wind Energy. A key aim of California’s standard is to promote the development of instate green power supplies. Under current rules, out-of-state renewable resources meet the California standard only if the electrons and their associated “green tags” are delivered directly to the state’s electricity grid. However, given the Golden State’s limited supply of renewables projects, it will have to look to out-of-state resources to meet its needs. New Mexico lawmakers are also considering HB 188, which would set aside $10 million in state oil and natural gas tax revenues to fund renewable energy and other projects. Recent high natural gas and oil prices have generated more than $1.4 billion in Oil and Gas Conservation Tax revenues for the state. As New Mexico lawmakers consider ways to develop the state’s renewable resources, plans for a coal-fired power plant in the state’s Four Corners region are moving ahead. The Desert Rock Energy Project, a $2.5 billion, 1,000 MW coal-powered plant on Navajo Nation land in northwest New Mexico, is being developed by Sithe Global and the Dine Power Authority (Circuit, Jan. 6, 2005). Work is starting this year on obtaining tax, lease, and water agreements in committees of the New Mexico state legislature and the Navajo Tribal Council. A draft environmental impact statement is expected this September.

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