Big win: Jemez Mountain Co-op Explores Renewables
Like much of rural New Mexico, Rio Arriba County currently relies heavily on oil and gas for its revenues. This means that in years when market values for oil and gas drop (like they did in 2016), counties like Rio Arriba have resulting budget shortfalls that can devastate critical needs and services. That’s why community conversations around a clean energy economy that includes a stable, healthy and robust renewable energy market are critically important in New Mexico.
This year, we are focused on pressuring Rio Arriba’s local utility, Jemez Mountain Electric Co-op, to create a stronger renewable energy market locally. However, for most rural electric co-ops, meaningful investment in renewables is more complex than it sounds, because they are often in contract partnerships with larger utilities. Jemez Co-op is capped by its contract with Tri-State Electric on the amount of renewable energy it can produce and add to the grid. Unless contract terms change, Jemez can’t produce more than 5% of it’s energy from renewables.
In the past six months, we’ve been working to create a groundswell of public support to call on the co-op to begin the process to renegotiate its contract with Tri-State Electric. Families and co-op members attended board meetings in large numbers, wrote letters to the paper and organized meetings to call on the co-op to take action. This work culminated in August when the Jemez Co-op Board of Directors voted unanimously to author and send a letter to Tri-State to start a contract renegotiation process.
This is a huge victory for renewable energy and the community, but the work is far from over. In the coming months, we need to work with the co-op board of directors to ensure that the renegotiation process advocates for Jemez to transition to a more robust renewable energy future – one that generates revenues and creates jobs in Rio Arriba County. To get involved with this campaign or learn more about this work, contact Molly Sanders, CVNMEF Program Director, at Molly@CVNM.org.
By Molly Sanders, CVNMEF Program Director