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Time to put NM’s clean-energy economy in gear

I was immensely proud when the New Mexico Legislature passed the Energy Transition Act and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed it into law last year. Through this new law, our state took a historic step toward leading the nation in addressing the climate crisis.

Sen. Martin Heinrich

Sen. Martin Heinrich

The Energy Transition Act will boost renewable energy production, create thousands of new careers, reduce carbon pollution, and diversify New Mexico’s economy, while providing real support for the hard-working families who will be impacted by our transition away from coal-fired generating plants. The balanced approach of this new law has strong support from all across our state, including a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers, as well as the Navajo Nation and business, environmental, labor and community groups.

The new law sets important benchmarks for reducing carbon emissions, ensuring that 80 percent of New Mexico’s electricity is generated from renewable resources by 2040 and that the electricity grid is 100 percent carbon-free by 2045. These are much-needed targets, in line with what scientists say is required to avoid the worst effects of climate change. Through the Energy Transition Act, New Mexico will meet our responsibility to act on climate change and set a standard for other states and even Congress to follow.

We can no longer resist change in the electricity sector just for the sake of trying to hold on to the past. Consumers in New Mexico and across the nation are demanding that their utilities seek cheaper and cleaner power sources. Changes in the energy sector are going to keep moving forward regardless of how well and how quickly we position our state to thrive in this new landscape.

We must not forget that any delays to implementing the Energy Transition Act will also delay the law’s funding that will pay for compensation and job retraining for workers in San Juan County and the Navajo Nation who will be impacted by the planned closure of the San Juan Generating Station. There is no perfect solution for the communities who have long depended on the jobs there. However, the Energy Transition Act takes a responsible and responsive approach. The new law will also invest tens of millions of dollars in new clean energy projects in the region that will help replace some of the lost economic impact of the coal plant.

The Public Regulation Commission should not stand in the way of the new law’s crucial transition funds that are a critical first step in a long-term commitment from the state to invest in the success of a diversified Four Corners economy. The Navajo Nation and communities like Farmington deserve our full support throughout this energy transition.

New Mexico, with its abundant wind and solar resources, can and should be at the center of America’s growing clean energy economy. If we make the right decisions now, including moving forward with full implementation of the Energy Transition Act, we can bring thousands of new jobs and millions of dollars of investment to communities across our state and build a better and healthier future for our children.

There’s no question that we urgently need to take national and international actions that meet the full scale of the threats posed by climate change. This is truly an existential challenge. New Mexicans are already seeing the disruptive impacts of climate change in the form of increasingly severe drought, floods and wildfires. Through their representatives in the Roundhouse, New Mexicans made it crystal clear that they want and need our state to step up and become a leader in showing the way forward through concrete climate action.

The Energy Transition Act is a critical step toward a pollution-free future, and it’s the law of the land. Let’s hope all New Mexico policy makers will work together to implement this law as quickly and predictably as possible.

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