New Mexico's solar energy tax credit passes Legislature, could create thousands of jobs

Adrian Hedden
Carlsbad Current-Argus

New Mexico’s solar power industry could see growth in the coming years, thanks to lawmakers implementation of a tax credit for solar facilities in a Senate bill which passed the State House and Senate Wednesday and was sent to the desk of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to be signed into law.

Senate Bill 29, known as the Solar Market Development Income Tax Credit Bill passed the House, its final stop before Lujan Grisham’s desk, on a vote of 51-19.

It passed the Senate 33-6 earlier this month.

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SB 29 would provide a 10 percent tax credit toward the purchase of rooftop solar arrays for residents and business owners, capped at $6,000 per taxpayer per year.

The tax credit would be available for eight years starting in 2020, and last expired in 2016.

Lujan Grisham, who supported the move during the 2020 Legislative Session and last year, said the bill would make solar energy more accessible to home and business owners while increasing New Mexico’s renewable energy portfolio – a signature priority of her administration since Lujan Grisham took office in 2019.

More:New Mexico solar energy tax credit bill clears Senate and proceeds through House

“By reinstating the solar tax credit, we’re making sure New Mexicans have an easier path to installing solar on their homes and businesses. This not only saves consumers money but reduces our carbon footprint, moving New Mexico closer to our absolutely essential climate goals,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement following the bill’s passage.

“I applaud the Legislature for supporting this bill to expand renewable energy jobs in New Mexico.”

The purported employment benefits of accessible solar energy were also touted by SB 29’s sponsor Sen. Mimi Stewart (D-17) during committee hearings and debates as the bill moved through the Legislature.

She said New Mexico lost about 25 percent of its solar companies after the credit ended in 2016, from about 3,000 to 2,168.

More:New Mexico's fight for 'community solar' continues with House, Senate memorials

That meant the loss of thousands of jobs in the solar industry, Stewart said.

New Mexico State Sen. Mimi Steward (D-17)

“This clearly helped with the jobs category in this industry,” Steward said before the House Taxation and Revenue Committee. “It’s an individual tax credit for consumer, small business, small agriculture.”

A study from the national Solar Foundation showed New Mexico continued to lose jobs in the sector over the last year, down to 2,021 in 2019 from 2,168 in 2018 – a 6.8 percent loss.

More:Bill increasing access to solar energy moves forward in New Mexico House

That placed the New Mexico 30th in the nation for solar jobs, with California in first place with 74,255 jobs and Florida in second with 12,202 jobs. New York had the third most solar jobs in the U.S. with 10,740.

Solar jobs increased in 31 states overall, with Florida adding the most with 1,843 solar jobs added in the last year, followed by Georgia’s growth of 1,102 jobs and Utah with 1,062 solar jobs added.  

Nationwide, the Foundation reported a 167 percent increase in solar jobs in the last decade, from 93,000 in 2010 to 249,983 jobs in 2019.

More:Solar energy supported by New Mexico Senate bills, offer tax credit and improve access

In the last five years, from 2014 to 2019, solar employment increased by 44 percent, the report read, five time faster than overall U.S. job growth.

“The solar industry has been one of America’s leading job creators over the past decade, as evidenced by our annual National Solar Jobs Census,” said Andrea Luecke, executive director of The Solar Foundation.

“In just 10 years, despite facing many challenges, solar has grown from a niche product to a mainstream energy source that provides a quarter of a million high-quality jobs."

She said states must work together to support policies and drive continued growth in solar energy to protect the environment and develop a new and potentially significant source of energy.

More:New Mexico activists question governor's climate change goals amid Permian Basin oil boom

“This is great news, but it’s only a fraction of what can be accomplished if we are truly committed to solving the climate crisis and expanding the use of solar and storage,” Luecke said.

“It’s past time for us to unite as a nation and create even more jobs by harnessing the power of the sun.”

New Mexico should be on the forefront of the nationwide solar market, Lujan Grisham said, and SB 29 will help the state grow it solar energy output.

More:New Mexico Native American tribe building solar farms amid state's renewable transition

Albuquerque averages about 300 sunny days per year, records show, with southern portions of New Mexico receiving even more.

“In a state that ranks second for solar potential nationwide, it’s crucial that New Mexicans have an easier path to installing solar on their own homes and businesses,” Lujan Grisham said.

“This legislation will not only incentivize more sun-powered energy across the state, it will continue to drive this important and promising sector forward in New Mexico, boosting the renewable energy economy and creating more green-collar jobs in solar manufacturing and installation.”

Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, achedden@currentargus.com or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.