Blue state environmental wave grows as New Mexico governor signs clean energy order
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D, signed an executive order on Tuesday, committing the state to reduce carbon emissions by at least 45% below 2005 levels by 2030.
The order establishes an inter-agency task force on climate change and directs state agencies to set vehicle and power plant emissions standards, adopt energy efficiency building standards and identify transmission infrastructure to support renewables growth.
- The carbon emissions reduction commitment would put the state on track to reach the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, which President Donald Trump has pledged to withdraw the U.S. from.
Lujan Grisham ran strongly on clean energy during the 2018 midterms, climbing a wind turbine in a campaign ad and joining six other Democratic governors in flipping state executive seats from red to blue.
She ran in part on bringing the state to 50% renewable energy by 2030 and 80% by 2040, and her election marked another clean energy pendulum swing for the state. New Mexico was one of the founding members of the Western Climate Initiative under Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson in 2007, but Republican Gov. Susana Martinez withdrew the state from the agreement in 2011.
Grisham's order comes on the heels of a similar move by J.B. Pritzker, the recently elected Democratic governor of Illinois.
The move in the first month of her governorship "puts in place a team and a process going forward to do even more and figure out what polices will work for New Mexico going forward, how can New Mexico work with other states and ... figure out what more needs to be done in the coming months and years to put New Mexico back in a leadership position," Noah Long, director of the Interior West and Northwest Climate & Clean Energy Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, told Utility Dive.
The executive order requires the climate task force, co-chaired by secretaries of the state's Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department and the Environment Department, to bring policy recommendations and updates to the governor by September, aiming to initiate legislation that will increase the state's renewable portfolio standard, increase energy efficiency standards for utilities and secure emissions reductions from oil and gas.
The state legislature is currently under a democratic majority, with a number of newly elected members placing a "lot of emphasis on energy and climate issues in particular," said Long, and next steps will likely address "the need for greater integration of the western grid and the western energy market to facilitate renewable energy utilization and sharing of renewable energy resources to minimize costs for customers," he predicts.
The state currently has a goal of investor-owned utilities generating 20% of their power from renewables by 2020 and 10% for electric co-ops. In December, New Mexico regulators approved its largest utility's plan to eliminate all coal-fired generation by 2031.
New Mexico also has a growing wind portfolio, with Pattern Energy signing two 15-year deals in July to provide 200 MW to four California counties and the state approving a $1.6 billion wind expansion from Xcel Energy in March that will add 522 MW.
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