New Mexico Passes Bill to Plug Cars into Clean Electricity

Consumer research reveals that people want to buy electric vehicles (EVs), but often hesitate to do so because of a lack of charging infrastructure. Aside from Tesla’s Superchargers, there are only six public fast-charging locations in all of New Mexico, which means vast areas of the state have none. But that should change soon, thanks to bipartisan legislation backed by Governor Lujan Grisham now headed to her desk to be signed into law.

House Bill (HB) 521 clarifies that independent EV charging companies will not be regulated like utilities, providing regulatory certainty without which such companies will remain reluctant to invest in the state. Likewise, the bill would require the state’s regulated utilities to propose programs and partnerships with independent companies to advance the EV market, including by facilitating the deployment of charging infrastructure.

Driving on electricity provides reliable savings that households can bank on. For the last 20 years, the cost of electricity has been equivalent to dollar-a-gallon gasoline. The price of electricity is inherently stable because it is made from a diverse basket of domestic resources, and because its price is regulated by state utility commissions. No one regulates the global oil market. If there’s a war in the Middle East and gasoline prices skyrocket, the price of electricity isn’t affected. Driving an EV can provide New Mexican households much-needed energy security.

HB 521 would also benefit utility customers, even if they don’t drive EVs. New Mexicans have bought and paid for an under-utilized asset in the form of the electric grid. Because EV charging mostly happens when people are sleeping and there is plenty of spare capacity in the grid, it can improve the utilization of the system, including through use of low-cost New Mexican wind power. Charging cars at night spreads the costs of maintaining the grid over more electricity sales, reducing the per-kilowatt-hour price to the benefit of all customers. That cuts everyone’s utility bill, regardless of whether they drive an EV.

This isn’t just a theoretical proposition. Real world data from the two utility service territories that have the most EVs in the country (Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison) reveals that EVs are putting downward pressure on electric rates to the benefit of all utility customers.

New Mexico joins a growing number of states that have enacted legislation to ensure independent companies and regulated utilities are making investments to grow the EV market. This comes just days after the Legislature passed a bill that would double renewable energy use in the state by 2025, require 50 percent renewable energy by 2030, and 100 percent carbon-free electricity generation by 2045.

Adopting bills to advance both clean energy and clean vehicles at the same time makes sense because EVs are big batteries on wheels, which can be charged in a manner that lowers the cost of integrating variable resources like wind and solar onto the grid. EVs can be charged overnight when wind generation often peaks, or during the afternoon when solar generation peaks. But EVs have to be plugged into the grid at the right times if they’re going help soak up excess wind or solar electricity. Thankfully, HB 521 will ensure New Mexico has enough plugs to connect the cleanest vehicles on the road to the state’s vast renewable energy resources.

Jessica Russo, NRDC

About the Authors

Max Baumhefner

Senior Attorney, Climate & Clean Energy Program

Noah Long

Director, Interior West and Northwest, Climate & Clean Energy Program

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