The New Mexico House of Representatives passed the Energy Transition Act Tuesday afternoon, sending the carbon-free electricity bill to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
Her opinions on it are known: She campaigned on raising the share of renewable energy and endorsed the ETA in a recent column.
"The governor will sign the bill as quickly as possible — we're hoping it is enrolled and engrossed and sent to her desk by Friday," spokesperson Tripp Stelnicki said in an email Tuesday afternoon.
Once signed, the legislation will commit the state to achieving zero-carbon electricity from public utilities by 2045. The bill also imposes interim renewable energy targets of 50 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2040.
The Senate passed the bill last week, 32-9. The House passed it 43-22.
The legislation would enter New Mexico into the company of Hawaii, California and Washington, D.C., which have committed to eliminating carbon emissions from their grids. A dozen other states have proposed similar goals. Meanwhile, the Green New Deal resolution has prompted Congress to discuss the bigger task of decarbonizing the nation overall.
Though grid decarbonization has surged in the news cycle in recent months, New Mexico's bill arose from a years-long effort to rally stakeholders within the state's close-knit political community.
"I didn’t hear anybody talk about the Green New Deal — everyone was talking about the Energy Transition Act," said Sanders Moore, who worked on the effort as director of Environment New Mexico. "There’s a lot of power that we have at the local level and a lot of ways that we can address climate."
Clean energy advocates tried to pass a higher renewables target back in the 2017 legislative session, but it did not succeed. Separately, Public Service Co. of New Mexico, the state's largest utility, tried last year to get a securitization for the coal plant investments it has been planning to exit.
This year, both strands came together in the new bill. It secures the clean energy commitments, while also enabling PNM to walk away from its remaining coal assets without a major financial loss.
More specifically, the bill allows utilities to securitize bonds to pay for the costs of the transition away from fossil fueled electricity. In theory, this would allow them to get coal plants off their books at a lower cost to ratepayers than business as usual.
By keeping the major utility in good financial health, environmental advocates say, it will be better positioned to carry out the shift to entirely clean energy. The bill also provides funding to support the communities that will be affected by the plant closures.
The state has work to do to raise its renewables from about 20 percent of electric generation today to 80 percent by 2040.
New Mexico enjoys attractive solar and wind resources, as well as opportunities for geothermal power. Some utilities purchase power from the Palo Verde nuclear plant in Arizona, which will still be allowed under the carbon-free framework (as opposed to laws elsewhere that stipulate renewables only).
The wild card will be securing dispatchable power with such a large share of intermittent renewables. The state has very few grid storage facilities currently, and the battery devices prevalent in today's storage market are ill-suited for long duration shifting.
"I have full confidence that the technology is going to advance so we can reach these goals," Moore said. "We didn’t say 80 percent tomorrow; we said 80 percent in 20 years."