ALBUQUERQUE, NM -- New Mexico fell in national ranking of cumulative solar power capacity in 2014, according to a new report by Environment New Mexico Research & Policy Center.
Lighting the Way III: The Top States that Helped Drive America’s Solar Energy Boom in 2014 reports that every state in the country receives enough sunlight each year to meet its energy needs several times over. The states that ranked the highest in cumulative generation, however, were those with policies that allow an increasing numbers of homeowners, businesses, communities, and utilities to “go solar.”
“As solar technologies improve and good federal policy makes solar energy more accessible, we must also commit to policies here in New Mexico that take full advantage of our abundance of sunshine,” said Carly Poremba, organizer with Environment New Mexico Research & Policy Center.
Last year was the first year in which New Mexico fell out of the top ten states for cumulative solar generation since the annual release of Lighting the Way began in 2012.
Of the top ten states listed in the report -- including states that receive significantly less sunlight than New Mexico like New Jersey, Vermont, and Massachusetts -- all have renewable energy requirements, and nine have strong laws to allow solar customers to connect to the electricity grid and receive credit for the excess power generated from their homes.
“Our analysis shows that policy choices are a key driver of solar energy growth,” said Gideon Weissman of Frontier Group, report co-author. “State and local government policy leadership is closely aligned with success in growing solar energy.”
Nationwide, solar generation has tripled in the last three years alone. The solar industry is adding jobs much faster than the overall economy; last year the solar industry in New Mexico provided jobs for 1,600 people.
“Renewables are a win-win for both our environment and our economy. Solar energy has and will continue to fuel economic growth here in New Mexico,” said Senator Mimi Stewart. “We must ensure that this growth is maintained through smart policy initiatives such as the solar tax credits that assist homeowners through the process of going solar.”
But the state still lags behind less sunny locales like New Jersey in part because of we have not been proactive in the establishment of programs to help finance renewable energy upgrades to buildings and businesses.
To further boost the development of solar energy, Environment New Mexico Research & Policy Center urges the state to maintain strong net metering standards, promote community solar and virtual net metering (which can deliver the benefits of solar power to low income communities), and establish active Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs, which finance energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades. The state should also utilize solar energy wherever possible on public buildings and properties and expand its renewable portfolio standard.
The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which sets state-by-state limits on carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants, also provides incentives for NM to accelerate its development of solar energy. In fact, our research indicates that solar power could easily meet about half of the pollution reduction targets required by the plan.
“The Clean Power Plan is by far the biggest step our country has ever taken to address climate change,” said Poremba. “Therefore, we must ensure that solar power remains a key player as we work towards a more sustainable energy future.”