By Adrian Hedden | Carlsbad Current Argus
August 3, 2021
Renewable energy sectors could bring a multi-billion-dollar boost to New Mexico’s economy along with thousands of jobs, per a recent study, if supported by federal stimulus money.
Advanced Energy Economy, a national renewable energy trade association, estimated in a report released Friday that federal stimulus investments of $20 billion in renewables could add $117 billion to New Mexico’s gross domestic production (GDP).
The investments would also save consumers, municipalities and businesses about $6 billion on energy costs each year and create 796,000 job years, or single years of employment.
The report estimated the $20 billion investment as New Mexico’s potential share of a $2 trillion federal stimulus package, contending it could generate $7.5 billion in tax revenue for New Mexico each year from renewable energy projects.
Lea Rubin Shen, policy director at Advanced Energy Economy said investments in renewable energy installations, energy storage and electric vehicle infrastructure would help bring down energy prices and create a more reliable grid.
“Investing in this transformational technology not only has the potential to save families and businesses money on the cost of cooling their homes and getting where they need to go, but would also create good jobs at a time when many in the state are looking for work,” Rubin Shen said.
She said New Mexico as a state already saw strong progress in renewable energy and low-carbon power development and federal stimulus money would help bolster such growth.
Investments in energy efficiency would add about $73 billion to New Mexico’s GDP, while vehicle electrification would add $22 billion.
“New Mexico’s advanced energy workforce is already over 11,000 workers strong,” Rubin Shen said. “An infusion of public funds in a sector that New Mexico is already committed to would spur significant private investment, helping to further grow the state’s advanced energy industry.”
Mark Allison, executive director of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance said the shift from fossil fuels could prove lucrative for New Mexico as it was highly dependent on oil and gas for its revenue and susceptible to the booms and bust of the commodity-based industry.
Allison worried that the oil and gas industry held thousands of acres of unused land, meaning heavy extraction was likely to continue.
He said federal stimulus for lower-carbon energy development and infrastructure could help offset the impacts of ongoing extraction and mitigate the effects of pollution on the climate and natural disasters.
“New Mexico’s public lands have been burdened by aggressive oil and gas activities for decades. That is sure to continue given it will take years for the industry to develop all of the leases they have already purchased,” Allison said.
“A federal investment in cleaner forms of energy will be good for the health of our lands, wildlife, and water, and will diversify an economy that has become overly dependent on oil and gas.
“The effects of climate change in New Mexico are obvious as wildfires and severe droughts have become commonplace. It’s time to power our world in cleaner ways.”
Growth in New Mexico’s renewable energy industry grew by almost a third last year, per a Monday report from the American Clean Power Association.
Renewable energy produced about a quarter of electricity produced in New Mexico, the report read, marking a 32 percent growth rate in 2020.
Cumulative renewable energy investments in New Mexico in 2020 totaled about $6.5 billion, employing 3,500 people.
State and local tax revenue from the projects totaled about $34.8 million last year, read the report, funding going to public services like education.
Much of New Mexico’s wind and solar installations were centered in the rural eastern portion of the state with a cluster of wind installations reported on State Trust land in northern Lincoln County and southern Torrance County.
Several solar projects were also underway deeper into the southeast corner, dotting Eddy and Lea counties, per records from the New Mexico State Land Office.
There were 11 active leases for solar projects on New Mexico public land generating 303 megawatts, records show, with 35 lease applications pending for an additional 3,145 megawatts.
For wind, New Mexico had 16 active leases for a capacity of 619 megawatts with 12 pending applications to add another 2,570 megawatts of power.
“It is no secret, New Mexico has the unique landscape that makes it perfect for renewable energy projects, and developers are recognizing this,” said Deborah Douds, chief executive officer of the Ruidoso Valley Chamber of Commerce.
“Through increased investments, new jobs and economic opportunities have hit our communities. I look forward to what is to come in New Mexico’s clean energy portfolio.”
And those investments could mean less pollution in the air New Mexicans breathe.
The report showed in 2020, renewable energy cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by about 6.7 million metric tons.
Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima in a statement released with the report said the transition to renewable energy would help support New Mexico environment and economy simultaneously.
“Adding new renewable energy developments promotes grid resiliency—helping our economy and keeping the lights on in our homes and businesses,” he said. “We are proud to be a part of this transition to clean power in New Mexico.”
This article originally appeared in the Carlsbad Current Argus.