A lasting, positive legacy for Gov. Martinez

July 24, 2017 GMT

Recently, Gov. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., decided to endorse the Paris global climate accord and set his state on a path to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent. He recognizes his state can save and make money because of cheap natural gas and the declining costs of solar and wind power. Gov. Hickenlooper’s vision is a win-win for both fossil fuel and alternative energy proponents.

New Mexico, with our abundance of wind and sunlight, has a tremendous opportunity to become a national model for increased solar and wind power, coupled with a decreased dependence on fossil fuels. An innovative and aggressive “energy vision” will generate a lasting positive legacy for Gov. Susana Martinez and help our state prosper economically and ecologically in the future.

New Mexico has 300-350 days of sunshine annually and fair-to-good wind resources. It ranks in the top 10 solar-friendly states. Our Renewable Portfolio Standard (approved in 2004) mandates that 20 percent of our electricity must come from renewable sources by 2020. Good for us. But the present trajectory is neither innovative nor robust enough to maximize the true potential of renewable energy in our state.

Given the bounty of our solar and wind energy, and the clear job creation potential therein, an aggressive harnessing of these renewable resources is in order and imperative. The shift to more investment in renewable energy will not jeopardize our fossil fuel industry, but complement it. Lowering the overall cost of energy in New Mexico will increase the efficiency of our fossil fuel industry and make these resources last longer.

Today, Germany produces about 31 percent of its energy from alternative resources. In 2015, approximately 350,000 jobs in Germany were attributed to the renewable energy sector. That’s quite impressive, and Germany’s wind and solar resources pale compared to New Mexico’s. Over the next 15 years, New Mexico should engage with private sector energy providers and land developers to rationally expand the delivery of solar and wind energy. The governor and state legislators should update our renewable portfolio standard and mandate at least 50 percent of the state’s total energy requirement be supplied by wind and solar power by 2035. This is an achievable goal.

The governor can request federal assistance to seed and expand our renewal resource capabilities using a job-creation rationale under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and through the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. This has to happen now because time may be running out. A revitalized energy vision should promote rapid expansion by private sector stakeholders through tax incentives and guaranteed support for implementation.

If the governor embraces this vision, it will benefit all citizens by creating jobs, providing inexpensive reusable power, and creating incentives for companies and individuals to come to New Mexico to get in on our power boom. A bipartisan vision and action plan for renewable-energy expansion must be brokered.

The governor should seize this opportunity. If she does, will pay less for our energy, we will have more new, higher-paying jobs, more skilled workers will immigrate to our state, our economic trajectory will be brighter, and all New Mexicans will benefit. New Mexico has a unique opportunity. The time is right to embrace alternative energy. Gov. Martinez’s legacy awaits.

Victor Barbiero is an adjunct professor at the College of Population Health at The University of New Mexico and an adjunct professor of global health at The George Washington University, Milken Institute School of Public Health. He also was a foreign service officer with the U.S. Agency for International Development for 23 years.