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Richardson signs renewable energy bills

Mar 6, 2007 - Deborah Baker - The Associated Press

Sunny, windy New Mexico is the "clean energy state," Gov. Bill Richardson said Monday as he signed into law two measures that encourage the production of electricity from renewable sources.

The bills quadruple the use of clean electricity by 2020 and establish a Renewable Energy Transmission Authority to help export solar, wind and other renewable energy.

The legislation "shows the nation that states move forward while the Congress is in gridlock and the Bush administration is just a spectator," said Richardson, who is campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008 and was just back from Iowa.

The new laws will be effective July 1.

Under current law, 5 percent of the electricity from the state's three large investor-owned utilities must come from renewable sources, and that goes to 10 percent by 2011. The new law requires 15 percent from renewable sources by 2015, and 20 percent by 2020.

The measure also brings rural electric cooperatives under the mandate, with 10 percent of their electricity required to come from renewable sources by 2020.

The governor said the legislation will not only reduce greenhouse gases but create jobs - in solar technology, for example - and help ranchers who want to diversify into the wind energy market.

It's a way for New Mexico to use natural resources that residents take for granted, especially those on the windswept eastern plains, said Rep. Jose Campos, D-Santa Rosa.

"There's some reason that all the trees bend eastward," said Campos, sponsor of the transmission authority bill.

The Renewable Energy Transmission Authority - the first of its kind in the nation, according to the Richardson administration - is described as key to developing a renewable energy generation and export industry.

The quasi-government authority could plan, finance, build and operate electric transmission lines and power storage facilities.

Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Secretary Joanna Prukop said the authority would look at ways to plug gaps in New Mexico's power grid to ensure the transmission of clean energy around the state.

It also would provide a way to tap into regional transmission systems that could move electricity from generation projects - such as wind farms in New Mexico - to growing power markets in the West, such as California.

The authority could issue tax-free bonds to provide low-cost financing for projects. It could charge companies to use transmission facilities it owns or operates.

The authority's transmission facilities would be able to move electricity generated by any fuel source - including coal-fired plants - but at least 30 percent of it would have to be from renewable sources, including wind, solar, hydropower, biomass or fuel cells.

The authority would have a seven-member board, with three members appointed by the governor and two by legislative leaders, along with the state treasurer and state investment officer. ___

The transmission authority bill is HB188.

The renewable energy measure is SB418.


On the Net: New Mexico Legislature: http://www.legis.state.nm.us