New Mexico the most coal-heavy state to pledge 100% carbon-free energy by 2045

By Megan Geuss

Blue sky over solar panels.
Enlarge / University of New Mexico Taos Campus solar photovoltaic array.

On Tuesday, New Mexico's state House of Representatives passed the "Energy Transition Act," which commits the state to getting 100 percent of its energy from carbon-free sources by 2045. The act passed the state Senate last week. Now the bill awaits the signature of New Mexico's Governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Governor Grisham's office told GreenTechMedia on Tuesday that she would "sign the bill as quickly as possible."

The bill includes interim goals mandating that 50 percent of the state's energy mix be renewable by 2030 and 80 percent of the energy mix be renewable by 2040. The state currently buys no nuclear power, which is not renewable but qualifies as a zero-carbon energy source. The bill passed yesterday does not require that 100 percent of the state's energy be renewable by 2045; it just specifies that no electricity come from a carbon-emitting source.

This move links New Mexico with California and Hawaii, the only two other states that have signed into law a commitment to 100-percent carbon-free energy by 2045.

New Mexico is unique among these states because it is a relatively coal-heavy state, generating 1.5 gigawatts of coal-fired electricity as of November 2018.

Last month, the state's Public Service Company of New Mexico had slated its 847MW San Juan coal plant for shut down by 2022, but a New York hedge fund called Acme Equities swooped in with an offer to buy the 46-year-old plant. According to Power Magazine, Acme intends to retrofit the plant with carbon capture and sequestration technology. If the deal goes through, Acme would use the captured carbon in enhanced oil recovery, where carbon is forced into older or weak oil wells to improve the pressure of the well and extract more oil.

But with the passage of this bill, Acme's offer may not stand. New Mexico In Depth writes that the bill puts "$30 million toward the clean-up of the [San Juan] coal-fired power plant and the mine that supplies it and $40 million toward economic diversification efforts in that corner of the state and support for affected power plant employees and miners."