PRC vote to issue proposed rulemaking for Community Solar Act brings program one step closer to launch
(Santa Fe, NM) — Stakeholders who helped to develop recommendations for implementation of New Mexico’s Community Solar Act (CSA) today praised the state Public Regulation Commission (PRC) for advancing proposed rules consistent with their goals of expanding solar access for all New Mexicans. The PRC voted unanimously last week to adopt a draft Rule based on stakeholder input captured in a report of the Strategen Group, a consulting firm that consolidated feedback during a six-month process concluding in October and roll many of those recommendations forward into their proposed rule. Comprised of advocates including state legislators, environmental groups, tribal community leaders, utilities, clean energy and sustainability experts, the working group proposed a series of recommendations to ensure equal access to and equity in the new community solar program that will launch officially in 2022.
“I applaud the PRC’s commitment to a thorough and expedient rulemaking process as we move forward to implement a community solar program that will deliver environmental and economic justice for New Mexicans while helping to tackle the climate crisis,” said Senator Liz Stefanics (NM-39), the prime sponsor of the bill which enabled a community solar program and facilitator of the stakeholder working group. “I am tremendously proud of the work of this diverse group of individuals and the broad consensus we were able to reach about how to develop a strong community solar program for New Mexicans. We focused on ensuring all communities that want access to clean energy in New Mexico can connect through community solar, especially low-income households, tribes and pueblos that have been left out of the clean energy economy for too long.”
The Strategen Group report to the PRC examined ten key topics related to the implementation of the CSA, ranging from siting projects to signing up subscribers, choosing which community solar projects will serve customers and creating an equitable and sustainable long term program.
“Community solar is a bright new opportunity for New Mexicans to enjoy greater access to renewable energy and save money on their energy bills at the same time,” said Beth Beloff, Executive Director of the Coalition of Sustainable Communities New Mexico. “I am thrilled that this program is progressing on schedule and that the PRC has endorsed many important provisions of our group’s work. This is an exciting step towards building a thriving and sustainable economy built on clean energy and expanding access to the benefits.”
Through community solar, customers can enjoy equal access to the economic and environmental benefits of solar generation by subscribing to small local solar arrays and supporting local solar development. They then receive a credit on their utility bill for their share of the power that is produced, just as if the panels were on their own roof.
Community solar is a key component of clean energy access and equity because 75 percent of American households cannot connect with solar power because they either rent, live in a multi-tenant building or have roofs unable to host a solar system.
Enacted in 2021, New Mexico was the 21st state to adopt a Community Solar Program. Projects are capped at 5 MW and will expand access to community solar to disadvantaged communities, with a carve out of 30 percent of capacity per project dedicated to low-income customers and service organizations.
A report by the New Mexico Bureau of Business and Economic Research found that the community solar program could create over $500 million in economic impact for New Mexico and create and sustain 3,760 jobs.
“We applaud the dedicated work of the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission on their work to implement the CSA. Their rulemaking proposal adopted many of our working group’s key recommendations which will ensure the CSA leads to a successful new program that delivers customer choice as well as economic and environmental benefits for New Mexicans for years to come,” said Kevin Cray, Mountain West Regional Director for Coalition for Community Solar Access.