A Rio Arriba County Organizing Update: Bringing Power to the People

Luis Torres (far left), an organizer working with CVNM Education Fund, leads a meeting of the Renewable Energy Festival planning committee in March.

Here in New Mexico, we know all too well why community conversations around a clean energy economy that includes a stable, healthy and robust renewable energy market are critically important. However, for most rural communities, meaningful investment in renewables is more complex than it sounds because rural electric coops are often in contract partnerships with larger utilities that cap the amount of renewable energy they can produce at the local level.

That’s why Conservation Voters New Mexico Education Fund (CVNM Education Fund) has been supporting community members in Rio Arriba County in efforts to call on the Jemez Mountain Electric Co-op to renegotiate its contract and invest more deeply in local renewable energy. Communities like Rio Arriba deserve to be a clean energy leader that generates revenue and creates jobs for local families.

To accomplish this, over the past few months we have:

Organized film screenings on climate change and renewable energy. Last fall, CVNM Education Fund partnered with Northern New Mexico College in Española to host a screening of An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power. We were joined at the screening by families, college staff and students, and CVNM Education Fund volunteers. Before the film began, the college made a public commitment to an internal transformation to invest in renewable energy and reduce its carbon footprint.

Started planning for Española’s 2nd Annual Renewable Energy Festival. This spring, CVNM Education Fund is organizing the county’s second renewable energy festival in partnership with local volunteers, community groups and county leaders. CVNM Education Fund is serving as the facilitator of the event-planning committee and the primary fiscal sponsor for the event. The event, which will be held over Earth Day weekend, will feature local performances from Rio Arriba County musicians, dancers and singers. There will also be informational workshops and demonstrations organized by community partners to share information about renewable energy with the public. Read more about the event at renewableenergyactionnm.org/.

Local Rio Arriba artist Eliza Naranjo designed a t-shirt for the 2nd annual Renewable Energy Festival.

Amplified community voices and stories. Last December, CVNM Education Fund gathered and delivered over 100 public letters of support to the Jemez Co-op encouraging their leadership to increase its investment in renewable energy. The letters were delivered to the Jemez office in Española before the winter holiday break. CVNM Education Fund also met with several community leaders to collect and share stories of how local families have been impacted by pollution and/or have invested in renewables. The stories will be shared through a social media campaign later this spring.

For more information about this campaign, please visit our website at www.CVNMEF.org.

By Molly Sanders, Deputy Director of Programs