Santa Fe, NM
Today, the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (PRC) approved transportation electrification plans for Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) and El Paso Electric (EPE) to accelerate the deployment of electric vehicles (EV) over the next two years. The plans will help fund charging equipment at single-family and multi-family homes, workplaces, other public places, including 70 fast chargers in PNM’s territory and 16 direct-current fast chargers (DCFC) in EPE’s territory.
A goal of the plans is to assist closing gaps in areas that do not have charging stations to enable EVs to travel longer distances, for example between Las Cruces and Albuquerque. Low-income customers in both territories will be eligible for incentives that cover the entire cost of installing chargers at customer’s homes. PNM will invest up to $1.5 million to install charging infrastructure for electric transit buses and school buses in underserved communities and $1 million educating customers about electric vehicles. This will include a partnership with a community-based organization to conduct tailored outreach to low- and moderate-income customers. EPE will invest up to almost $150,000 in low-income smart charging, over $100,000 in public transit and customer fleet smart charging, and $250,000 for customer outreach and education about EVs, charging infrastructure, and customer incentives.
Ona Porter, CEO at Prosperity Works said, “We appreciate that today’s Commission decisions strongly affirm our belief that we cannot reach our carbon reduction goals without the inclusion of low-moderate income residents in the deployment of ALL of the new technologies, and equally important, that these populations must be the beneficiaries of the reduced costs and improved health that they offer right alongside of their more affluent neighbors.”
Increasing access to electric vehicles is especially important for low- and moderate-income families because electric vehicles save their owners thousands of dollars in fuel and maintenance costs. For residential customers, the cost of fueling an electric car is roughly equivalent to paying $1 per gallon of gasoline. New Mexico utilities serve low-income, rural areas where the average family currently devotes more than a third of its household income to transportation costs.
“Ditching a gas guzzler for a clean electric vehicle is a lot easier if you can recharge your car at home, so I’m glad the Public Regulation Commission approved a program that can unlock the financial and health benefits of electric vehicles for more low- and moderate-income families in New Mexico,” said Earthjustice senior attorney Sara Gersen, who represented Prosperity Works before the Commission.
Electrifying fleets of city buses, school buses, and other vehicles that burn diesel will provide essential public health benefits. Diesel exhaust is far more toxic than gasoline exhaust and disproportionately burdens low-income communities. PNM estimates that its program could support about 20 charging stations for buses. This is an important step in the right direction but dramatically increased investments will be necessary to electrify all the diesel-burning vehicles in PNM’s territory, which includes the metro Albuquerque area.
“Installing EV charging infrastructure so that average folks can access it is critical to helping our state drive down green house gas emissions and harmful pollutants,” said Cara Lynch attorney for CCAE and Prosperity Works. “These programs are a positive first step to helping New Mexico’s families and low-income customers access EV charging. Overall, this can result in meaningful energy savings for families.”
New Mexico cannot meet its climate goals without a widespread transition to electric vehicles. Governor Lujan Grisham established a goal of reducing the state’s climate pollution by 45% by 2030. Transportation is New Mexico’s second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions — exceeded only by the oil and gas industry. Currently, fewer than 0.2% of vehicles registered in New Mexico are electric.
“The New Mexico PRC’s approval is another indicator that the state is making big strides toward an all-electric transportation future. Lack of access to charging infrastructure continues to be one of the biggest barriers to widespread EV adoption, and the PNM and EPE plans will be critical to increasing availability and encouraging more New Mexicans to go electric,” adds Aaron Kressig, transportation electrification manager at Western Resource Advocates. “It is encouraging to see that the Commission approved of plans that were more ambitious than the utilities originally proposed. They clearly responded to input from stakeholders who urged them to go even further and demonstrates that the New Mexico government understands that ambitious plans are necessary to meet the climate and air quality challenges of our time.”
In July 2021, the New Mexico Environment Department and the City of Albuquerque launched a rulemaking process that will lead to the adoption of standards that require auto manufacturers to sell electric vehicles and low emission vehicles in New Mexico. Increasing sales of electric vehicles will improve public health by helping New Mexico meet air quality standards, while allowing New Mexico to reach our climate goals. These rules are also essential for making more electric vehicles available in the state and creating a market for used electric vehicles.
“This is a big step toward a cleaner, more efficient transportation system for New Mexico,” said Travis Madsen, Transportation Program Director at the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP). “There’s something for everyone to like in this decision. It will save New Mexicans millions of dollars. At the same time, it will help clean up our air, protect our health, and reduce climate change.”
Electrifying passenger vehicles on the trajectory needed to reach New Mexico’s climate goals will save drivers $20 billion through 2050, save utility customers almost $5 billion over the next 30 years in the form of reduced electricity bills, and prevent climate-changing pollution with a social value of $5 billion, according to a report commissioned by SWEEP and NRDC.
The New Mexico Legislature initiated this process in 2019, when it passed House Bill 19-521. The law directs investor-owned utilities to file transportation electrification plans for approval with the Public Regulation Commission on a regular basis.