The New Mexico Public Regulatory Commission (PRC) has ordered the state’s largest utility, PNM, to pay 13 cents/kWh for the “green attributes” of interconnected solar photovoltaic systems under 10 kW. The program becomes effective as of March 2006 and has funding available for about 1.2 MW worth of solar projects over the life of the program. The PRC ruling actually provided 2 cents/kWh more than what was initially proposed (see previous story in Democratic Energy).
The program is on a first-come, first-served basis and existing net metered solar projects are eligible to participate. About 170 kW worth of projects can be developed under the program in 2006 and an additional 90 kW per year for the remaining years of the program.
Possible drawbacks and barriers in the program include a $100 application fee for residential customers. For commercial customers, there is a $225 application fee. This fee is in addition to the $50 net-metering application fee required to establish an approved interconnection with PNM. Participants will also be responsible for installing a second meter on the site in order for PNM to monitor the output of the solar system.
The new incentive for solar production will work in tandem with New Mexico’s existing net metering law. Once the green attributes are purchased, PNM will be able to apply these renewable energy credits (RECs) towards their obligations under the New Mexico’s renewable portfolio standard (5% starting this year, ramping up to 10% by 2011). Unlike most renewable standards, New Mexico’s law allows PNM to count each kilowatt-hour of solar power as equivalent to three kilowatt-hours of wind power toward their renewable energy requirements.