This story is a staff report from The Paper.

The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission completed the Community Solar Rulemaking and the new rule was unanimously adopted today, during the agency’s Open Meeting.

In the nearly year-long project for the Commission, led by the office of District Three Commissioner Joseph Maestas, the PRC solicited input from utility companies, solar developers and community organizations around the state and throughout the US.

The PRC’s Community Solar Action Team, formed early in the process after Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the Community Solar Act into law on April 5, 2021, gave input on the Rule provisions before the final draft was brought before the Commission for discussion and a vote to adopt.

Key to the success of the Team’s efforts and the Commission’s rulemaking was the hiring of outside consulting firm and facilitator Stratagen, which facilitated an unprecedented pre-rulemaking stakeholder engagement process that was inclusive and robust, yielding a great rule, said Commission Chairman Joseph Maestas.

“The Commission was under a tight deadline to complete the rulemaking by the statutorily mandated deadline, and the effort of building consensus among stakeholders was vital to successfully adopting a thorough and effective rule on such an expedited timeline,” Maestas said. “This rule and the Community Solar projects that should soon follow are the fruition of a long effort by advocates for renewable energy and for energy equity for all New Mexicans, and those advocates should feel justifiable pride today. This is good work well done.”

The new Rule includes a statewide capacity of 200 MW of community solar power and establishes selection policies for utility companies issuing opportunities for community solar development in the state, with a requirement for at least 30% of projects to be allocated for low-income subscribers and low-income service organizations. Consumer protections are also established within the new Rule for community solar subscribers.

While the Commission Rule sets the parameters for project selection, the Commission itself will have no involvement in the selection of individual community solar projects. A third-party administrator will be tasked with administering the program.

“Community Solar represents an opportunity for more New Mexican families and businesses to participate in the transition to clean energy.  The special focus on low-income subscribers is a commitment to social equity and is our state’s contribution to the US Department of Energy’s goal of five million solar households by 2025.  Today’s order is just the start of program implementation. We certainly want to thank all the stakeholders who contributed to crafting the rule and the Community Solar program going forward,” Department of Energy Fellow Arthur O’Donnell said, who has been instrumental in the guidance of the PRC’s Community Solar Action Team.

The Rule will be effective when it is filed in the New Mexico Register. Utilities will be required to file all tariffs 60 days from the effective date of the order, which is still forthcoming.