NEW MEXICO LOCAL SOLAR ACCESS FUND
It’s time to invest in our communities and our children’s future.
What is it?
The Local Solar Access Fund (HB 108) is a proposed grant fund at the New Mexico Finance Authority, which will issue both planning and implementation grants to Tribes, Counties, Municipalities, and School Districts for solar and storage projects to power public buildings like community centers, libraries, schools, and fire stations, and infrastructure like water, wastewater, and street lighting. Planning includes procuring grant writers and technical expertise to plan and fund projects, and implementation includes funding construction, purchase, installation, and equipment of solar energy and storage systems.
The fund is sponsored by House Majority Whip Reena Szczepanski, Senator Harold Pope, Senator Nancy Rodriguez, Representative Ambrose Castellano, Representative Patricia Roybal Caballero, Representative Anthony Allison, and Representative Tara Lujan. It will be established in law with a one-time, non-recurring, non-reverting appropriation of $110 million.
New Mexico has unprecedented, but temporary, budget surpluses from oil and gas revenue. And there are time-sensitive federal funding opportunities on the table that we are at risk of missing out on if our communities can’t access grant writers and technical expertise.
Communities throughout our state want to build solar
projects that will save money, make them safer and
more resilient, especially in emergencies, and reduce
dangerous climate emissions. However, most do not have the resources to build these projects or access federal grants.
The fund will help communities overcome obstacles to build the solar they need, investing in their future for decades to come.
What are the benefits of solar?
Cost savings and increased revenue for local communities from repurposed energy dollars. Solar is cheaper than conventional energy and rates are fixed over 25-30 years. Solar protects communities from price gouging and market volatility.
Safety, security, and resiliency through the creation of emergency cooling centers that maintain power when there are blackouts and brownouts.
Reduced carbon emissions to support community health and help address climate change.
A Tribal Administrator wants to solarize their water treatment facilities to lower expensive utility bills and ensure that their infrastructure is resilient. With passage of this bill they could hire technical expertise to plan a solar and storage project to power their wells and water treatment infrastructure, as well as grant writers and funding experts to acquire funding and financing for the project. They could get financing from the Climate Investment Center, a Rural Energy for America grant from the USDA which requires a 50% match, a 50% match from the New Mexico Match Fund if that is passed, and then after completion could apply for an Inflation Reduction Act cash subsidy that could cover 30-50% of the total project costs that were financed.
A City Council is reviewing the budget and finds itself short $100,000 for critical elder care programs. Utility bills for city facilities have been growing substantially each year and eating into every department's budget. Someone suggests adding solar panels to reduce these costs. Where would you even start the planning or funding with no room in the budget to hire that kind of expertise? The Local Solar Access fund would help them hire experts to plan and fund solar projects that will save energy dollars and power critical facilities.
The fund could also fund shovel-ready projects that need funding to be completed.
But what about all of that federal funding for solar?
Exactly! The Local Solar Access Fund will be an excellent source of funding on its own, and it will also be critical in helping communities access federal funds they otherwise would be unable to obtain.
The Local Solar Access Fund will support communities by issuing grants for planning, including paying grantwriters to apply for federal funds and experts to help local and Tribal governments access Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) cash subsidies.
The fund will be more accessible than federal funding, offering cash for planning and implementation on an expedited timeline. IRA elective pay can only be accessed after projects are completed, which could take longer than a year.
The Local Solar Access Fund will serve under-resourced communities that haven’t been able to access federal funding due to the complexity of applications, the amount of work required to apply and manage federal funding, the requirements of upfront funding, the competitiveness of federal grants, and challenging timelines that often aren’t compatible with community needs.
The fund will be able to receive federal and private grants, maximizing the amount of funding available to our communities.
What's the difference between this and a green bank?
Green banks typically offer loans and financing for solar, while the Local Solar Access Fund will issue grants to plan and implement solar projects and will not require matches or repayment. The Local Solar Access Fund is complementary to the green banks' funding sources. In some cases, green bank funding could be stacked with Local Solar Access Funding, lowering loan costs. The fund is intended to leverage other funding sources, helping New Mexican communities maximize and accelerate our investments in solar.
Take Action to Support the Local Solar Access Fund
REIA-NM • Sierra Club • CVNM • 350NM • New Mexico Municipal League • New Mexico Counties • Coalition of Sustainable Communities • Pueblo of Picuris • Pueblo of Laguna • McKinley County School District • Habitat For Humanity Santa Fe • Santa Fe County • City of Santa Fe • Santa Fe Public Schools • Renewable Taos • Town of Taos • City of Albuquerque Sustainability Office • Village of Los Ranchos • New Mexico State Land Office • New Mexico Solar Energy Association • Kit Carson Electric Cooperative • Positive Energy Solar • Interfaith Power and Light • DPNM Environmental Justice Caucus • YUCCA • Earth Care • Indivisible ABQ • Indivisible SOS • NM Health Professionals for Climate Action • NM Climate Justice • NM Dream Team • Santa Fe DSA • Indigenous Lifeways • NM Immigrant Law Center • WildEarth Guardians • Common Ground Rising • Eclipse Solar • Los Jardines Institute • Center for Biological Diversity • AIA NM • UNM LEAF • San Juan Citizens Alliance • Vote Solar • Grid Alternatives • Adelante Consulting • Tewa Women United • Southwest Native Cultures • McKinley Collaborative for Health Equity • New Mexico Social Justice and Equity Institute • Shiprock Traditional Farmers • New Energy Economy • No False Solutions •
Watch a webinar on the Local Solar Access Fund!
New Mexicans want local solar now! Watch this informative webinar on the Local Solar Access Fund featuring sponsors House Majority Whip Reena Szczepanski and Senator Harold Pope, data scientists with Embold Research, Trenton Marlar and Stephen Claremont, City of Las Cruces Sustainability Officer Lisa LaRocque, and Public Power Campaign Director Alysha Shaw.
The panel discussed the Local Solar Access Fund, its potential impact, and the results of a new statewide survey of New Mexico demonstrating significant support for solar and renewable development and the Local Solar Access Fund.
What New Mexico communities are telling us:
Most Tribes and Counties want to pursue solar energy and storage projects.
Most rural Municipalities in NM currently lack the funding to plan and implement solar, but would develop solar to power public buildings and infrastructure if accessible funding were available.
New Mexico communities have important public safety and resilience needs such as power and shelter for residents and first responders during emergencies and disasters that this fund could support.
Local and Tribal governments can save up to $10 million after 25 years by investing in 1 MW of solar.
Solar is more accessible and affordable than ever. Between 2009-2019, solar costs fell more than 90%, and these trends are likely to continue with increased manufacturing and investment.