Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman are more than just United States senators from New Mexico. They are also national leaders on energy policy with more than 30 years of experience on Capitol Hill.
Bingaman chairs the Senate Energy committee and Domenici is the ranking Republican on that committee. No two people have more influence on the country’s energy future.
Today, as the Congress considers how to address high energy prices rippling through the American economy, it is clear that one of the most important policy solutions is the development of renewable energy. The Senate will soon vote for the third time since August on clean energy tax incentives set to expire at the end of this year.
If the tax credits expire, wind and solar development in New Mexico and across the United States will stop. Indeed, many commercial and utility-scale projects are already on hold.
The wind and sun and other renewable sources could provide vast amounts of free, domestic and more secure energy to Americans every day. These promising resources today represent less than 2 percent of America’s electricity. But with continuation of the modest incentives in place, we are on track to exponentially increase that proportion soon.
In New Mexico we are ahead of the U.S. curve — we have an impressive plan to use renewable energy sources to meet 20 percent of our electricity needs by 2020. The Legislature, the Public Regulation Commission and the governor have been supportive of this goal, partially because they all know there is big money in this field as rapidly growing electricity markets in Arizona, Nevada, Utah and California become even hungrier for a steady supply of clean power.
There isn’t just money to be made by exporting clean power. Jobs and investment dollars are pouring into the state as companies are positioning themselves to capture the vast economic potential of our renewable energy resources. Just this month, SCHOTT North America broke ground on a manufacturing facility outside of Albuquerque that will produce components for large concentrated solar power plants.
SCHOTT is expected to create in excess of $1 billion in economic stimulus for the state, while providing an initial 350 green tech jobs in the state. SCHOTT will join already established companies, such as Advent Solar, who have been operating in the state for years. Advent’s Albuquerque manufacturing facility is producing 10 million solar cells per year, and employs over 150 New Mexicans.
At the same time, the new Renewable Energy Transmission Authority has been swarmed by wind energy developers who propose to bring our high-quality wind to market, benefiting ranchers and landowners and small communities around the state.
Our wind and solar industries are poised to grow, and that growth could be fast and furious. But the growth depends on sustained, targeted federal support — not stop-and-start tax credits that make it hard for industry to plan and invest.
According to a recent independent study, if the tax credits expire New Mexico will lose out on the creation of 1,168 new jobs in the small-scale solar energy field alone. Many more jobs in large-scale solar and wind would be affected.
The oil depletion allowance, in place for decades, critically assisted the development of the oil and gas industry that has helped support the New Mexico economy for 75 years. The renewable energy industry needs similar policy support from Congress. It will be good for our economy in New Mexico, but it will also be good for the growth of a needed industry elsewhere across the United States.
Concerted, cooperative leadership by our two senators can make long-term extensions of these critical tax credits happen — keeping investment and growth of renewable energy continuing for years to come.
State Rep. Brian Moore, R-Clayton, represents Union, Harding, San Miguel, Quay, Roosevelt and Curry Counties.