Just last month, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham made New Mexico the latest state to enact a 100% renewable energy mandate. That’s after California and Hawaii, of course. Under the Energy Transitions Act, state utilities must generate 50% of their electricity from renewable resources by 2030. Following up, these state utilities must generate 80% by 2040, and the goal of 100% by 2050. Ambitious goals for sure.
Renewable Energy Shows Promise
Supporters of the new bill claim that in addition to the mandate’s environmental benefits, there will be large economic benefits. New Mexico’s wind power industry has already generated 3,000 new jobs and $3 billion in private investments.
Based on renewable energy efforts in the past in other countries, most notably Germany, which has already invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the last few decades into wind and solar energy, renewable energy shows a lot of promise.
Skeptics of Renewable Energy
Skeptics, however, claim that this energy mandate may end up hurting consumers and the economy in the long run. In fact, states with renewable energy mandates have energy prices 26% higher than that of states without them. With higher taxes and energy costs due to renewable energy, detractors claim that New Mexico’s previous energy mandate has already costed the state $405 million dollars in economic activity and 3000 jobs, contrary to claims that an extended renewable energy mandate would help the economy and increase employment.
Over the winter holidays of 2017, energy bills went negative. Essentially, utility companies paid consumers paid some $60 per megawatt-hour to use electricity. That’s crazy, but it’s also not unique.
When factories are closed or weather is temperate, the demand for heating or cooling often overtakes supply. Consequently, in these cases, energy prices often drop precipitously.
On the other side, this shows the degree of inconsistency that energy reliability has. While renewable energy could be productive to the point of being overabundant, there is a risk, with the degree of technology that we have today, that it could often underproduce. The effectiveness of solar and wind energy, which perhaps may be reliable in Germany, may not fit to generate the same amount of success in various parts of the US.
Nonetheless, the problems caused by non-renewable energy are undeniably large, and despite the potential drawbacks, a worldwide move towards renewable energy is absolutely essential.
Chris is a guest writer at The Rising and a Computer Engineering student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.