New data released Tuesday from the Southwest Public Policy Institute poll shows that 7 in 10 New Mexicans prioritize affordable and reliable energy over production of green energy. There were over 3,000 respondents when the survey concluded in April.
Less than 4 in 10 of those who responded strongly agreed that it is important for utility providers to derive electricity from wind and solar.
“I think the most important generalization we can infer from this survey is that people are questioning New Mexico utility providers’ ability to provide affordable and reliable energy,” said Patrick Brenner, president of the Southwest Public Policy Institute. “In light of mounting pressures from the state’s Energy Transition Act and Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s tendency to import California-esque energy policy, many rural New Mexicans are concerned about just keeping the lights on.”
All New Mexico utility providers are working to convert energy production to renewable sources under the governor’s Energy Transition Act (ETA). The ETA was enacted in 2019 and mandates zero carbon resources by 2045. Some critics have labeled the law as New Mexico’s version of the “Green New Deal”.
The Albuquerque Journal’s editorial board offered insightful highlights of the looming energy crisis: “PNM, the state’s largest utility company, announced […] it won’t have enough power in July and August to meet peak consumer demands and is warning customers they may face rolling blackouts this summer.”
According to the poll, only 6 in 10 New Mexicans are aware of the predicted summer blackouts while 7 in 10 were aware of the 50% renewable portfolio standard to be implemented by 2030.
Increasing public outcry over the energy crisis prompted PNM to delay the closure of the San Juan generating station, an aging coal-fired power plant that PNM aimed to abandon as early as this summer. The closure is delayed through summer of 2022.
New Mexico’s largest utility provider has previously exited other clean energy options like the Palo Verde nuclear plant.
The short term stop-gap measures of delaying coal plant closures conflicts with the long term actions of exiting nuclear plant leases. Is clean energy truly a priority for New Mexico utility providers? Or is Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham merely trying to avoid the public relations catastrophe that comes with rolling blackouts?
Analyzing the polling data, Brenner said, “I believe New Mexicans are coming to the realization that the Energy Transition Act is not in the best interests of New Mexico.”
The Southwest Public Policy Institute worked with New Mexico Public Regulation Commissioner Jefferson L. Byrd to analyze the results of the survey.
The survey concluded with a 94.9% completion rate and 3,253 total survey respondents.