City leaders and Green For All unite for renewable energy in Albuquerque

Authors: Julie Roberts For anyone who has ever been to Albuquerque, it's immediately obvious that there's a huge renewable energy potential in the high altitude desert city. On April 1st, seventy Albuquerque leaders from business, government, community organizations, workforce development and labor came together to explore a way to harness that potential, through a city scale renewable energy program that creates broader economic development. By the end of the meeting, the participants were on their feet, with signs that read "PACE Financing + Community Benefits Works For Albuquerque," and a strong commitment to moving forward quickly to help set up a city scale clean energy program. A Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program is a way for homeowners to eliminate the upfront costs of clean energy work on their homes. Homeowners can opt into a voluntary district, finance the cost of the work, and pay back the loan over up to 20 years on their property taxes. Last year the New Mexico legislature approved PACE legislation for renewable energy measures like solar energy, and cities like Santa Fe and Albuquerque are already working to set up their local districts. An exciting element of the Clean Energy Jobs Albuquerque Convening was that the participants looked at the model provided by Clean Energy Works Portland and explored ways to support the passage of a PACE district that would maximize the economic development opportunities for Albuquerque, by including a broader set of community benefits. Community benefits could include things like quality assurance provisions, opportunities for local workers, business opportunities for minority contractors, and ways to bundle the work to get to a larger scale. Jeremy Hays, Special Projects Manager, Green For All, talked about the model he helped develop in Portland. "Some people have an 'if you build it, they will come' mentality, and think that a financing program is all it takes to get to scale. What we've learned in Portland though, is that having a program developed by a wide variety of stakeholders who have an interest in its success has actually helped us reach a greater demand." Shrayas Jatkar, Associate Regional Representative, Sierra Club, highlighted the opportunities for Albuquerque, noting that the city has a market of over 100,000 homes that are likely candidates for energy efficiency. While the current legislation only covers renewable energy, many participants expressed an interest in working to expand energy efficiency as well. One option would include leveraging the Home Star program introduced by New Mexico's own Senator Bingaman and providing rebates for energy efficiency work. Finally, Senator Tim Keller, encouraged participants to continue to help organize for a strong local clean energy economy, and floated the idea that Albuquerque could become the nation’s first energy neutral city. Councilman Ray Garduño stood to close out the meeting with a final comment, reminding the participants how he and Senator Keller have been able to help their shared district lead in green initiatives, and encouraging people to continue to work together to help Albuquerque lead. As a next step, a broad stakeholder committee has been convened to design the Albuquerque Clean Energy program and develop model policy language for the city. Thanks to the entire host committee, including: Sierra Club, Concept Green LLC, Renewable Funding, the Central New Mexico Central Labor Committee, and the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project.

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