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New Mexico Elects Potential Climate Hawk As Governor

New Mexico has elected US Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham to become its new governor by an impressive 14 point margin. The previous governor, Susan Martinez, was a climate change denier (she was not up for re-election). In her Clean Power, Clean Future plan, Grisham stated: “Inaction by the Martinez Administration has left us falling behind other states in pursuing renewable energy and clean tech industries.”

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham

New Mexico has elected US Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham to become its new governor by an impressive 14 point margin. The previous governor, Susan Martinez, was a climate change denier (she was not up for re-election). In her Clean Power, Clean Future plan, Grisham stated: “Inaction by the Martinez Administration has left us falling behind other states in pursuing renewable energy and clean tech industries.”

New Mexico has an incredible combination of solar and wind resources, with the capability to export power to other states. If we have any hope of transitioning to 100% renewable energy in time, states like New Mexico have to lead. The maps below show just how great New Mexico’s wind and solar resources are.

CleanTechnica’s Joshua Hill recently informed us about a 2.2 gigawatt wind farm that was recently approved in New Mexico, which will have a $3.8 billion economic impact, and Jake Richardson recently reported that New Mexico solar jobs are anticipated to increase from 2,500 to 6,800 by 2030. It will be interesting to see how much that figure could grow if Grisham is successful in attaining her goals.

US wind speed map

Us solar radiation map

Grisham’s plan to encourage clean technology is comprehensive. The 19 page document goes beyond platitudes and covers nearly all the bases in terms of renewable energy solutions. However, aside from methane leak mitigation, it doesn’t really stand up to the fossil fuel industry. Before discussing the numerous encouraging climate solutions contained within the plan, Grisham’s shortcomings must be addressed.

Sadly, the plan contains no mention of a carbon tax or a ban on fracking. According to the League of Conservation Voter’s national environmental scorecard, Grisham had a lifetime score of 91%. She did vote to support LNG exports in 2014, and she voted to slash funding for renewable energy and energy efficiency. Perhaps she was seduced by the “natural gas is a bridge” argument. Hopefully, activists can push her and the legislature to get tougher with the fossil fuel industry, and correct this Machiavellian compromise.

Despite not taking a hard line against fracking, Grisham does support a drastic increase in New Mexico’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). Her plan states:

“An RPS of 50% by 2030 and 80% by 2040 should be a floor, not a ceiling. We must commit to a regular schedule of revisiting the standard to ensure it keeps pace with technological and infrastructures improvements and is most effectively driving demand. As New Mexico’s infrastructure and technologies advance, we must continue to drive towards 100% clean energy for New Mexico. A regular review of the standard will help achieve this goal faster.”

It was pleasing to see that the plan referenced the following Lazard graph from its 2017 LCOE report on renewables. It is a source that many CleanTechnica writers have referenced since in its publication.

Grisham is prepared to join other governors in their efforts to make sure the US upholds it commitments the the Paris Climate Agreement:

“New Mexico must continue to drive clean energy production by supporting responsible carbon action. Under my leadership, New Mexico will join the U.S. Climate Alliance, a growing coalition of other states and Puerto Rico that will adhere to the goals set by the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. A market-based policy solution is the right approach, and I would work with stakeholders to determine the appropriate venue and approach for setting emission limits.”

Her plan sets a clear goals for distributed solar “of 15 percent on-site solar for customer-owned properties by 2022, and 30 percent by 2025.” Grisham is intent on protecting net metering and ensuring purchasers of solar systems are compensated at the full retail rate. Interestingly, the plan mentions that with recent tariffs on solar panels, solar thermal has become more competitive. Certainly, third-generation solar thermal plus storage is worth considering to balance the grid.

Grisham’s goals are aided by the fact that New Mexico can drastically spur economic and job growth by exporting renewable energy, particularly to California. Her plan delivers an economic argument for the state’s support of renewable energy. Hopefully that is the reason she is not verbally attacking the fossil fuel industry.  Other states are on the move to export power to the California market and New Mexico should not fall behind:

“In 2015, California increased its Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) from 33 percent by 2020 to 50 percent by 2030. This year the state senate approved legislation to accelerate the standard to 50 percent by 2026 and 100 percent by 2045. California’s homegrown solar capacity cannot meet these goals. The California 2030 Low Carbon Grid and NREL’s Beyond Renewable Portfolio Standards have identified New Mexico wind as a valuable resource for California to affordably and reliably meet its RPS goals. The state needs New Mexico’s wind, which is produced at a time of day that complements California’s solar by providing generation as solar ramps down at sunset.”

Of course, to export power to California and other regions, New Mexico has to move quickly to create “a comprehensive transmission plan to identify current gaps in transmission and storage.”

The plan would support EVs by building out charging infrastructure and purchasing EVs for state use. Additionally, emission standards for vehicles should be strengthened after the previous governor weakened them. Grisham even hopes to attract battery manufacturers to the state, so who knows — this election may end up winning a gigafactory for New Mexico. There is no shortage of arid land, solar, wind and sustainable communities in New Mexico.

This article just covers some key highlights of the plan. If you would like to read the Clean Energy, Clean Future plan for New Mexico in full, it is a surprisingly quick read for 19 pages. Feel free tell us what I should not have overlooked. One last thought was there was no mention of natural gas pipelines. In other states, Democratic governors have had the opportunity to kill pipelines and have not done so. In a time when political options are limited, governors should not relinquish any power they have to reduce fossil fuel extraction, particularly fracking.

If you would like to send an email congratulating Grisham on her win and encouraging her to do even more, you can use the link to her current congressional office website contact page.

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Written By

I am a jock turned wannabe geek. I fell in love with science later in life thanks to the History Channel show the “Universe.” Having taught middle school science, I strongly feel Astronomy should be taught every year because nothing excites students more than learning about the cosmos. I became an avid cleantech fan because it gives me hope about the future. My wife, my dogs, and I live simply because we love to travel the world backpacker style.


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