New Mexico senator seeks solar sales tax to fund early childhood program

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New Mexico has recently signed legislation pushing the state toward 100% of electricity coming from CO2 free sources, and 80% of that coming from renewables.

The measure requires that investor-owned utilities and rural electric cooperatives get at least half of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030. That would jump to 80 percent by 2040. A 100% carbon-free mandate would kick in five years later for utilities. That means there’s going to be a lot of wind and solar power in the state.

New Mexico legislator, Senator Michael Padilla (D) of Bernalillo County, has submitted the Renewable Energy Production Tax Act to the state legislature. The document seeks to create a 2.5% renewable energy tax whose purpose is to fund early education within the state. The tax will be applied to the wholesale value of the electricity at time of production, and will be based upon the monthly average price.

Renewable energy includes solar, wind, hydropower, geothermal or biomass. Biomass is defined as small diameter timber, salt cedar and other phreatophyte or woody vegetation removed from river basins or watersheds, landfill gas and anaerobically digested waste biomass.

There are a list of exceptions to this tax, making it the “utility-scale” tax:

  • The United States or any agency, department or instrumentality thereof
  • The state of New Mexico or any political subdivision thereof
  • Any Indian nation, tribe or pueblo activities or transactions occurring on sovereign territory
  • Personal consumption of the producer, including any excess production of electricity not consumed by the producer that does not exceed 500 kilowatt-hours in a 24- hour period

The document doesn’t specifically note the early childhood programs to be funded, noting in section 8:

The “early childhood program fund” is created as a non-reverting fund in the state treasury. The early childhood education and care department shall administer the fund. Money in the fund is subject to appropriation by the legislature for early childhood education and care services and programs.

SEIA shows about 836 MW of solar power installed in New Mexico. The EIA says approximately 711,000 MWh of non-hydroelectric renewables were generated in the state in September of 2019.