New Mexico’s hard-fought community solar legislation now in jeopardy

After a thoroughly vetted and agreed-upon stakeholder process that took more than a year to launch a community solar program in the state, Southwestern Public Service Company has filed an appeal with the New Mexico Supreme Court of the Public Regulation Commission (PRC) for a final rule for the program. In addition, SPS just filed a motion with the People’s Republic of China to suspend implementation of the final rule pending resolution of SPS’ appeal to the Supreme Court, an effort that could delay the community solar program for years.

The Community Solar Act was passed in the 2021 Legislative Assembly and customers, cities and landowners have long awaited the completion of the regulatory process by the PRC. The law includes a 30% split of capacity per project for low-income customers and service organizations.

SPS’s last desperate moves come after the People’s Republic of China conducted an open and transparent, year-long stakeholder process based on a clear mandate passed by the state legislature and signed by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and with the participation of organizations and businesses all over the world. state.

“At a time when New Mexicans need lower energy bills ASAP and the state needs jobs and economic growth, Xcel Energy – through its subsidiary SPS – is trying every trick in the book to thwart the community solar program and depriving us of the opportunity to experience the economic and environmental benefits of a community solar program,” said Mayane Barudin, Senior Regulatory Director Interior West at Vote Solar.

Xcel and SPS have publicly championed energy equality and a zero-carbon future, but are seeking to destroy a program that would provide local, clean energy to thousands of lower-income residents and sell only 1.6% of its annual retail sales.

“Despite years of stakeholder engagement to get to the rules published on July 12, SPS is drawing on its abysmal pool of taxpayers’ money to entangle this program in legal delays and ultimately destroy it. Make no mistake, the actions of this utility will harm the most vulnerable New Mexicans, who can benefit most from it as subscribers,” said Beth Beloff, director of the New Mexico Coalition of Sustainable Communities.

The regulatory process for the community’s solar program has been long and robust with many opportunities for stakeholder engagement and feedback, including:

  • Legislative (SM63) Stakeholder Working Group Meetings from June to November 2020
  • Legislative process during the 2021 session from January to March with preparatory work in December
  • The bill passed 2 Senate committees, 2 House committees, and floor votes in both houses
  • PRC Working Group Process Led by Strategists from June to October 2021
  • Regulatory process in the PRC from November 2021 to May 2022
  • Rules published by the PRC on July 12, 2022

“The Supreme Court must dismiss this case and the People’s Republic of China must immediately proceed with the implementation of the community solar program as intended by the legislature. This is a blatant abuse of the regulatory and judicial process and a waste of stakeholders’ time and taxpayers’ money. The climate crisis we face every day shows that renewable energy and solar power are the only way to save our planet. Because without our planet, what else is important?” said Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero, a house sponsor of community solar law.

Through community solar, customers can enjoy equal access to the benefits of solar by subscribing to small local solar panels and supporting local solar development. They then receive a credit on their energy bill for their share of the generated electricity, just as if the panels were on their own roof.

“SPS’s actions threaten to sink community sunshine in New Mexico before it takes off,” said Kevin Cray. “The community solar industry stands poised to fulfill the intent of the Community Solar Act to save bills for thousands of customers, deploy hundreds of millions of dollars statewide and provide benefits to all taxpayers.”

Community solar is an important part of clean energy access and equity, as up to 75% of New Mexico households cannot connect to solar energy because they either rent, live in a multi-tenant building, or otherwise have no solar system can host.

News item from Vote Solar

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