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Newsbites – January 2017
Facebook RE Contract Could Become a Template
Bruce Thorne, an attorney hired by Facebook to advise the social media giant on negotiating with Public Service Company of New Mexico and to guide it through the state regulatory process, says that Facebook’s $250-million data center being built in Los Lunas could trigger a “sea change” for renewable energy (RE) in the state.
The energy for the facility will primarily be generated by three solar facilities built by Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM). Facebook will reportedly pay PNM up to $31 million a year for electricity.
Thorne said that Facebook’s green-energy tariff, or green rider, which governs the amount of renewable energy the company wants to use to power the facility, could act as a template for other qualified companies and organizations to secure special rates with utilities for new renewable resources. Establishing such rates, he said, could attract businesses to the state and add additional solar and wind facilities to the grid. “The tariff could be a way—without using state or even utility money—to fund utility infrastructure. Improvements to the system resulting from the added facilities are the financial responsibility of the customer,” he said.
Thorne spoke in December at the monthly meeting of Santa Fe Sustainable Everything Associates. He made his presentation as a private attorney and not on behalf of Facebook.
New Mexico Has 12th-Highest Income Inequality Rate
Income inequality is worse in New Mexico than 38 other states, according to a new study by the nonpartisan Washington, D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The top 5 percent of households earn 19 percent of the state’s income, an average of $254,000, while the bottom 20 percent make an average of $17, 064 per year.
According to the report, income inequality has been dramatically worsening in New Mexico for decades. The gap between the rich and poor has been expanding nationwide as well. The average income for the richest 5 percent of households is at least 10 times greater than the bottom 20 percent in every state.
A Census Bureau study in September found that New Mexico’s medium household income slipped from 43rd to 45th among states between 2014 and 2015, and medium income had grown only 1.2 percent. The study also found that 20.4 percent of the state’s residents live below the poverty line, ranking New Mexico 49th, just ahead of Mississippi. New Mexico’s rural population has the highest poverty rate in the country—21.9 percent—according to Census Bureau statistics. New Mexico is one of six states where income inequality is greater for rural households than for urban households.
At 6.7 percent, New Mexico also has the second-highest unemployment rate in the nation, according to figures released in December by the U.S. Labor Department.
Wind Generation in New Mexico to Increase
Thanks in part to significantly decreasing costs, improvements in technology and federal subsidies, more than a gigawatt (GW) of wind capacity is now under construction or planned for the gusty eastern plains of New Mexico. Energy companies are expected to double the generating capacity over the next few years with 20 wind farms. That would be enough power to supply nearly 700,000 homes in New Mexico and other states, assuming new transmission lines are built, according to a PNM spokesman. Five large-scale transmission projects are currently in different stages of development.
Massive wind farms are currently being built in Curry and Torrance counties, including two interrelated projects near Clovis totaling 497 megawatts (MW) of generating capacity. The 298MW, $500-million El Cabo Wind Farm near Moriarty—the state’s largest—will open this year. Three other projects are planned.
Utilities can now produce wind-generated electricity at prices lower than natural gas. The federal production tax credit, which currently pays 2.3 cents for every kilowatt-hour of electricity from wind farms, has been a factor in the wind farms’ deployment. That subsidy is scheduled to start decreasing this year and phase out by 2020. A total of nearly 75GW of wind capacity were installed nationwide in 2015, according to the American Wind Energy Association, which touts the fees developers pay to farmers who host turbines on their land and the jobs the industry creates.
Jan. 20 Deadline to Apply for SF’s Verde Fund
The City of Santa Fe is accepting proposals from those interested in providing solutions at the nexus of climate change and poverty, two challenges that Mayor Javier Gonzales considers major threats to Santa Fe’s way of life. “We introduced the Verde Fund because we believe that climate change and poverty are interconnected and growing challenges,” said Mayor Gonzales. He added, “If preserving a community of opportunity is important to us, we have to take steps now to mitigate the devastating impact of climate change on the people who will be hit the hardest— those living in poverty or the working class.”
The Verde Fund will invest in community-based sustainability initiatives that reduce poverty and/or help the city reach its goal of being carbon-neutral by 2040. The initiatives may impact areas such as long-term housing, healthcare, education, transportation, food and employment opportunities for at-risk families and individuals, while reducing energy use and lowering carbon emissions.
The deadline to apply for the initial funding round is Jan. 20 at 2 p.m. For more information, call Alexandra Ladd of the city’s Economic Development Department at 505.955.6346 or visit http://www.santafenm.gov/bids_rfps/detail/1727p
$18 Million Pledged for Drought Relief in NM
Last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service announced that about 36 projects aimed at reducing the effects of drought in the West and restoring watersheds that provide drinking water to communities around the country will receive about $225 million. Nearly $18 million of that will be allocated to projects in New Mexico, including repairs to centuries-old acequia irrigation systems that are integral to the traditional cultures and regional food systems in the northern part of the state. The federal funding is expected to also generate significant spending by state, local and private partners.
Colorado River Water Allotments Endangered
Reductions of the water that the Colorado River supplies to Arizona and Nevada could be in place as soon as January 2018, according to research by the Center for Natural Resources, Energy and the Environment at the University of Colorado. Millions of cities, farmers, tribes, businesses and recreational users depend on that water.
The Colorado River Future Project surveyed 65 water managers, municipal and agricultural customers, conservationists, as well as tribal, state and federal officials. The study pointed to the continuing 16-year drought and concluded that more river water has been promised to interests in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming than is available.
The study recommends finalizing contingency plans and the extension of water-use agreements such as the Lake Mead share-the-storage pact signed in 2012 between the U.S. and Mexico, which expires in December. The pact allows Mexico to “store” water at the lake, which boosts the surface level of the Colorado River behind Hoover Dam. The lake has recently been at 37 percent of capacity, barely above the point that would trigger a shortage declaration that would cut 11.4 percent of Arizona’s and 4.3 percent of Nevada’s allotments, potentially affecting 625,000 homes. The Central Arizona Project would then cut water supplies to farmers by half.
Green Lodging Initiative Graduation
In Dec. 2012, the Santa Fe Watershed Association (SFWA) launched the Green Lodging Initiative, an eco-certification program aimed at hospitality properties that sought to be more sustainable in their practices and overall business plans. The initiative had a particular focus on water conservation and stewardship. Twelve lodging properties received the Bronze certification in 2014 as a result of the program by Hospitality Green (HG).
HG Santa Fe Green Concierge Certification® provides an on-site assessment for performance-based improvements in resource use, conservation, employee engagement and environmentally conscious waste minimization practices. The certification process is structured in three tiers (Bronze, Silver and Gold).
2016, SFWA and its partners, the Santa Fe Green Chamber of Commerce and HG, enrolled 23 properties. The initiative, fully funded by the city, attracted lodging, restaurant and food service properties to participate in the one-year monitoring program. The property was responsible for assigning a staff member to collect and log relevant data and work with the Green Hospitality representative, who helped assess the property on a monthly basis. The Green Lodging Initiative provided no–cost, on-site technical and employee training assistance, business-to-business resources, certification guidance and validation. Santa Fe Community College’s Energy $mart Academy provided training for all participating properties in using Energy Star’s Portfolio Manager, an online tracking tool for benchmarking facility energy and water use.
In Dec. 2016, Mayor Javier Gonzalez presented awards to hospitality properties that successfully completed Phase II of the initiative.
The hotels and restaurants at the Silver level are Drury Plaza Hotel, Casa Cuma Bed and Breakfast, Inn of the Governors, Inn on the Alameda, La Fonda on the Plaza, Santa Fe Sage Inn and Silver Saddle Motel. Bronze-level awardees are Del Charro Saloon, Inn and Spa at Loretto, Joe’s Dining, La Plazuela at La Fonda, Rooftop Pizza, Draft Station, Sweetwater Café, Tune-Up Café, Tecolote Café, La Casa Sena, Derailed at Santa Fe Sage Inn, Blue Corn Café, Blue Corn Brewery, María’s, Río Chama, and 35 North Coffee.
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