Clean energy legislation is a boon for business

April 9, 2019

In March, New Mexico lawmakers approved two clean energy bills that will be a boon for the state’s overall economy and for individual businesses both large and small. The governor has signed them.

The Efficient Use of Energy Act will boost investments in programs and services for efficiency by up to 67 percent — making it easier and more affordable for New Mexico residents and businesses to purchase efficient equipment, upgrade lighting, patch air leaks and take other steps to cut energy waste. Beyond the immediate cost saving benefits of implementing efficiency measures, this legislation will provide a myriad of other benefits to New Mexicans by improving the comfort of homes and buildings. It will also create new local jobs that can’t be outsourced in hands-on industries like installation and construction.

The economic benefits of energy efficiency extend to every New Mexican, regardless whether they directly participate in efficiency programs. Over the last decade, efficiency programs for the Public Service Company of New Mexico, El Paso Electric and Xcel Energy reduced electricity demand by 7 percent all together, saving customers $400 million. In fact, every dollar spent on energy efficiency measures saves customers as much as $3 on their electricity costs.

How is that possible? When homes and businesses collectively reduce electricity waste, they also reduce overall demand and congestion on the grid. As a result, utility companies can avoid investments in costly new infrastructure, which consumers pay for through higher electricity rates. In other words, expanding energy efficiency will help control energy costs for all New Mexicans. As a result, families and businesses have more money to spend and invest in their local communities.

Electricity is a major expense, and New Mexico’s largest industries — health care, tourism and research — use a lot of it. At a time when companies must compete internationally, it is crucial that the state keep its electricity costs low and predictable. Investing in energy efficiency can help do just that.

In addition to expanding energy efficiency, New Mexico lawmakers also passed the Energy Transition Act, which will dramatically increase the state’s renewable energy use, helping New Mexicans transition away from conventional fuels. The bill also directs $40 million to help displaced workers in communities like San Juan County, where the coal-powered San Juan Generating Station is shutting down because it can no longer compete with cheaper clean energy sources like wind and solar. As older plants like the one in San Juan County are taken off line, lawmakers should continue to support new jobs in fast-growing industries like energy efficiency and renewables, while also investing in the communities most impacted as the energy industry shifts.

Together, these two bills will help drive economic development in New Mexico, especially as a growing number of companies look for ways to invest in clean energy. Nearly half of Fortune 500 companies have set goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and invest in both renewable energy and energy efficiency. Companies set these goals not only because it is the right thing to do for the environment and their communities, but also to help them cut energy costs, reduce exposure to volatile fossil fuel prices and stay competitive. As more companies seek to realize the bottom-line benefits of clean energy, New Mexico’s commitment to clean energy sends a signal that it is open for business.

Jennifer Helfrich is manager of state policy at Ceres, a nonprofit organization working with influential investors and companies. Ceres’ headquarters is in Boston.