MSL Advisory Board member Seth Blumsack (Penn State University and Santa Fe Institute) will be part of a panel presenting to the Water and Natural Resources Committee of the New Mexico Legislature on Monday, November 9th. Dr. Blumsack and his colleagues Cristopher Moore (Santa Fe Institute) and Jessika Trancik (MIT and Santa Fe Institute) will be briefing the Committee on a recent white paper, “The Energy Transition in New Mexico: Insights From a Santa Fe Institute Workshop.” The report was also co-authored by MSL Advisor Paul Hines (University of Vermont and Santa Fe Institute, CEO Packetized Energy) as well as a number of other contributors, including the Microgrid Systems Laboratory.
New Mexico is one of a number of western states that have adopted aggressive targets for achieving low-carbon electricity supply. The Energy Transition Act, signed into law in 2019, sets statewide targets to reach a zero-carbon power grid for the state’s utilities by 2050. The state’s largest utility, Public Service of New Mexico, has publicly committed to reaching these targets even earlier.
The workshop report and briefing will focus on decarbonization strategies that open up new innovation and equitable economic growth opportunities. While the report is focused specifically on New Mexico, the strategies laid out in the report are relevant to other states considering similarly ambitious decarbonization goals for electricity. The focus is on actions and opportunities that state and local actors can take advantage of.
Six key strategies are highlighted in the SFI report (available, with a shorter executive summary for download in PDF format), as follows:
1) Job creation and economic recovery. Deploying wind energy, solar energy, energy storage, and other clean energy technologies can create jobs across the state, including in areas suffering economically because of closures at coal plants or other conventional energy facilities.
2) Leveraging a low-carbon power grid for decarbonization beyond the grid. Setting specific, binding greenhouse gas reduction goals beyond just the power grid can incentivize the electrification of new energy services such as switching residential and commercial heating from natural gas to electricity, and transitioning to electric vehicles that make more complete use of renewable energy. These areas represent opportunities for synergistic innovation that can promote advanced grid technologies alongside broader decarbonization in the economy.
3) Regional coordination to reduce costs and enhance reliability in decarbonized power grids. Greater regional coordination will streamline the path towards energy transition reducing overall costs, averaging weather conditions and creating export opportunities for competitive wind and solar power.
4) Supporting electrification of more energy services. Many uses of electricity, like water heaters and electric cars, are flexible in terms of when they need power as long as temperatures and charging levels meet the customer’s needs. Investment and innovation in advanced grid technologies (including microgrid systems) can promote broad decarbonization by facilitating electrification and averaging supply and demand over time.
5) Innovation to achieve soft cost reduction. The hardware costs of solar, wind, and energy storage are rapidly decreasing as global demand drives investment and technological progress. The next frontier for further cost declines can be pushed with state-level actions. These include design, permitting, installation, inspection, and interconnection.
6) Avoiding stranded costs by anticipating technological change. State-level decarbonization initiatives are coming into place amid ongoing decisions made by utilities to ensure adequate future electricity supplies. At the same time, costs for low-carbon technologies continue to fall, raising the specter of conventional power plant assets being “stranded” as economics and regulations change. Utilities and their regulators should incorporate the pace of technological change into resource planning processes and investment decisions.
For information about attending the briefing, please visit the Water and Natural Resources Committee home page. The briefing will also be recorded and publicly available for those unable to attend.