BernCo Commission passes resolution on local choice energy

Bernalillo County, NM (KKOB) — Tuesday, Bernalillo County, New Mexico’s largest county, joined communities and organizations across the state that are calling for state legislators and the governor to pass the Local Choice Energy Act, Senate Bill 165, sponsored by Senator Carrie Hamblen and Senator Liz Stefanics. A resolution in support of the legislation, sponsored by Bernalillo County Commissioner Eric Olivas and Commission Vice Chair Adriann Barboa passed unanimously at Tuesday’s meeting.

The Local Choice Energy Act will empower counties, municipalities, and tribes to generate or purchase renewable electricity and sell it to residents within their jurisdictions at lower prices. The legislation is similar to Community Choice Aggregation, which exists in 10 states: Ohio, Rhode Island, Virginia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and California. Other states including neighboring Arizona and Colorado are considering similar legislation this year.

Millions of Americans in more than 1300 communities are served by local choice energy providers, and many of those providers have gone 100% renewable rapidly, while lowering the cost of electricity, creating good, local jobs, investing in local economies, and increasing revenue for local government budgets to meet community needs. Local choice energy providers work in partnership with existing utility companies to transmit the electricity over the existing grid for the same fees they charge their existing customers, and residents within the jurisdiction of a local choice energy provider can choose to keep their existing service, if they want to.

            Commissioner Eric Olivas said, “This is an important signal for us to send to our legislators in Santa Fe that the Bernalillo County Commission stands behind this tool in the toolbox for increasing access to green energy, increasing access to all forms of renewable energy through Local Choice Energy… This is something that been deployed with great success in a diversity of states. This isn’t really a conservative/liberal issue. This is really an issue of choice and using market forces to shape the electricity market and bring down prices, increase reliability, and increase the amount of renewables on the market… We’re in crisis with our climate… There’s any number of things that we need to act on urgently, and this is one tool that we can use to help move the needle in that direction.”

            Commission Vice Chair Adriann Barboa said, “What I also really love about this is that choice, and it can be on a small level, and it can be on a large level. I’m excited about the opportunities for when this passes at the state legislature.”

“Local Choice Energy is garnering broad support throughout New Mexico’s local governments and from people and grassroots organizations across the state, because our communities want to have a choice and some local control in how our electricity is generated and priced,” said Alysha Shaw, Campaign Director with Public Power New Mexico, a statewide grassroots coalition that is supporting the legislation. “Many of our local governments run excellent water utilities, and we have the local and national expertise available to us to create dynamic, efficient, and effective, community-owned electricity providers. This legislation will unleash New Mexico’s abundant renewable energy and economic development potential.”

Bayard and Hurley, small rural communities in the mining district in southwestern New Mexico, were the first communities to unanimously pass resolutions in support of the 2023 Local Choice Energy Act. Santa Fe County, Grant County, and Las Cruces will consider similar resolutions in support of the legislation in the coming weeks.