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NM "Local Choice Energy Act" Seen as 21st-Century Model

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Local-choice energy policies adopted in nine states are not-for-profit models that allow communities to prioritize 100% renewable energy. (pixels/Pixabay)
Local-choice energy policies adopted in nine states are not-for-profit models that allow communities to prioritize 100% renewable energy. (pixels/Pixabay)
 By Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM - Producer, Contact
March 3, 2021

SANTA FE, N.M. - Supporters of a bill in the New Mexico Legislature say it would transform power and control of the state's electric supply, creating a 21st-century renewable-energy policy for the state.

Senate Bill 83, known as the "Local Choice Energy Act," would give local governments the ability to purchase electricity from a provider of their choosing, rather than utility companies that often are beholden to Wall Street investors.

Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber, who testified in favor of the bill, said that by increasing competition, consumers would benefit from lower utility bills.

"I think a combination of technology, climate-change issues, economics and different political environment are all combining to begin to put into place the building blocks of a comprehensive energy policy for New Mexico."

Nine states - including California, Illinois, and Ohio - already have passed similar legislation known as "community choice aggregation," allowing tribal and other local governments to take advantage of competitive bids for municipal electricity supply.

Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Doña Ana County, the bill's lead sponsor, said the legislation is needed because it addresses economic inequality and climate change, while offering customers what he called more stable and resilient energy-efficiency options that help create a clean-energy economy.

"New Mexico, it felt like we were on the Stone Age side of unleashing renewables and clean energy, and competition in the state," he said, "so this legislation is something that I think has been long overdue."

Supporters of the Local Choice Energy Act point to the success of water conservation in Santa Fe after the city purchased the water utility from Public Service Company of New Mexico in 1995. Since then, said Jesse Roach, who heads Santa Fe's water division, the overuse of water has been sharply curtailed.

"It looks like we peaked at about 13,000 acre-feet in '95 and now, we're down as of last year to closer to 8,000 acre-feet," he said, "and we've been adding customers that whole time."

Investor-owned utilities have said they're concerned local-choice energy won't be as reliable for customers, despite local-choice becoming more popular nationwide.

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