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Here comes the sun: Exploiting solar energy would help NM turn important economic corners

New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment, is blessed with a vast amount of sunshine that it receives each year.

New Mexico is the second-sunniest state in the country, with more than 300 days of sunshine each year, yet only two percent of our electricity is generated from the sun, falling behind states like New Jersey and North Carolina.

Here in our state, the solar industry is growing, thanks to policies that have been adopted and past legislation that encouraged solar use. In fact, it is one of the brightest spots in our economy.

We have 98 solar businesses in the state and the solar sector grew 45 percent from 2012 to 2014 for a total of 1,600 New Mexicans employed statewide at the end of 2014.

This makes the solar industry part of the vibrant fabric of New Mexico’s economy and what makes our state great.

Solar jobs are good, homegrown jobs that pay $20 to $23.50 an hour and cannot be outsourced to other countries.

Along with all of New Mexico’s industries that contribute to energy production, we need to continue supporting such a promising industry that is beginning to provide so many benefits to our state.

The best way to do this is by extending the residential solar tax credit, which is set to expire at the end of this year.

The tax credit was established in 2009 and has helped more than 5,500 New Mexican families install solar panels on their homes.

This has provided hardworking New Mexicans with savings on their electricity bill and helped insulate family budgets from uncertainty.

In addition, solar energy provides a pollution-free energy source, which helps decrease air and water pollution overall and improves public health.

We have introduced bills in our respective chambers (Senate Bill 13 and House Bill 26) to extend the tax credit, so that more New Mexican families can take advantage of our abundant sunshine. The bills would begin to decrease the current tax credit of 10 percent in 2019 to five percent in 2024, providing the solar industry time to plan and adjust for the decrease, rather than experiencing an abrupt end next year.

New Mexico could be a national leader in the solar industry and extending the solar tax credit will help us reach our potential.

We are proud to stand together in a bipartisan effort to support the solar industry, which has improved our economy, our environment and our health.