Our View: State should be energy leader

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By The Staff

A recent article by the Associated Press reports that New Mexico’s largest electric utility is being praised by an environmental group for being ahead in the renewable energy game.

The Legislature last year began requiring that investor-owned utilities, such as Public Service Company of New Mexico, generate 20 percent of its total retail sales to customers from renewable energy resources by 2020. The standard will gradually rise to that level from a current base of 6 percent.

Robert Ukeiley, climate and energy director for WildEarth Guardians, praised PNM for the number of renewable energy credits it has for meeting the standard.

But we think this is far from enough and the state should be taking a harder stand.

If there is any state that is perfectly situated to take advantage of solar and wind generated power, it is New Mexico.

For us not to be the leader in this field is shameful.

Not only do we have the climate and terrain, we have the brainpower at both Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia, as well as at New Mexico Tech.

The state’s program at Northern New Mexico College should be only a small step, not the whole show, in this area.

Those who have taken a look at the cost of fuel – and fears what their heating bill will be this winter – know that something has to be done.

Yet all we hear from government is talk. No one seems to be doing much.

This is a supreme opportunity for the state, and for private companies like PNM, to really make some headway.

But they are content with small steps, cheering over advancing credits or purchasing renewable energy certificates from other utilities – things that look good on paper but which really do little.

The state says it wants renewable energy generated here when possible. But what is stopping us?

Roy Stephenson, director of the utility division staff of the state Public Regulation Commission, said it’s relatively easy to generate renewable energy in New Mexico, and he doesn’t believe the state’s standard is aggressive enough given the great potential for wind and solar in New Mexico.

He said, “We could be doing better.”

We totally agree.

The state should do more to tap the huge potential of the sun and the wind here, particularly with the increase in the cost of energy generated by oil and gas, and because of the effects of climate change.

The problem – and prices – with oil will not go away. We need to step forward now and find long-term energy generation sources. We are in the perfect place to lead this charge and we had better get on the horse.