Renewable Energy Potential for New Mexico

A new study released by the Union of Concerned Scientists finds that if utilities increased their use of renewable electricity to 20 percent by 2020, New Mexico families and businesses would save $570 million on energy bills, primarily by reducing the demand for — and the price of — natural gas.

With consumer natural gas prices more than doubling in the past four years, 650 New Mexicans have joined 50,000 other Americans in pressing Senator Pete Domenici (R-N.M) to reduce gas prices by increasing development of renewable energy sources like wind and solar power. Senator Domenici, Chair of the Senate Energy Committee, held a hearing on the issue this week. Earlier versions of the senator’s energy bill focused on increasing drilling in sensitive areas and expanding subsidies for polluting fossil fuels while giving short shrift to clean energy solutions like the renewable electricity standard. “Extracting enough natural gas to supply the U.S. for less than a day does not justify the destruction of hunting and fishing paradises like the Valle Vidal,” said Ellery Worthen, lifelong hunter and secretary of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. “I hope that Senator Domenici will support the average New Mexico citizen by supporting clean energy alternatives.” The analysis found that a national renewable electricity standard of 20 percent by 2020 would produce benefits for New Mexico such as: – 4,760 new high-skilled jobs in manufacturing, construction, operation, maintenance, and other industries-2.7 times more jobs than new natural gas and coal power plants would create – $1.6 billion in capital investment – $117 million in property tax revenues for rural communities – $57 million in payments to ranchers and rural landowners from wind power leases and the production of biomass energy A 10 percent standard similar to the one twice-passed by the U.S. Senate would yield more moderate benefits, including $250 million in consumer savings, 790 new jobs, $948 million in capital investment, and $69 million in new property tax revenues for rural communities. “New Mexico can reduce natural gas prices, save consumers money, create jobs, and boost rural economic development by tapping into its strong renewable energy potential,” said Kate Abend, Energy Field Coordinator for the Union of Concerned Scientists. “New Mexico has the technical potential to meet nearly 22 times its electricity needs with renewable energy.” In addition to benefiting New Mexico, the study found that nationally, a 20 percent standard would create 355,000 new jobs, save consumers $49 billion on their energy bills, add $10 billion to the country’s gross domestic product, and provide $16 billion in payments to farmers, ranchers, and rural landowners. The electricity standard would also reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 15 percent below the business-as-usual case. The same policy would cut smog, soot, and mercury emissions from fossil fuel power plants and reduce harmful water and land impacts of extracting, transporting, and using fossil fuels. To read the full UCS analysis, see the following link.

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