In the face of a warming climate, New Mexico has set a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent below 2005 levels and increase renewable electricity generation to 50 percent by 2030. As the state reshapes its energy system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it simultaneously has a unique opportunity to address the uneven environmental public health and economic burdens the current energy system places on the New Mexico population. New Mexico faces a complicated landscape as it approaches these challenges, including the third highest poverty rate of any state, a sizable rural population with limited access to electricity, capital investment, and other resources, and an oil and gas sector responsible for more than half of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.
In this analysis, we assess opportunities and strategies to integrate pollution reduction, resilience to climate impacts (e.g. heat waves), and energy and environmental equity into the state’s decarbonization plans, with a focus on New Mexico’s most environmentally burdened and socioeconomically and demographically vulnerable communities.
Our initial findings on residential energy cost burdens, indoor air pollution, climate resilience, heavy-duty truck pollution, and opportunities to transition from oil and gas to renewable energy, are summarized below. PSE’s full analysis will be forthcoming in spring 2021.
Summary of Initial Findings
Energy Cost Burdens. Across New Mexico, low-income households and communities of color struggle to pay for their home energy bills, and often lack access to the resources to save energy and adopt clean energy resources. Efforts to adopt clean energy resources, such as rooftop, microgrid, and community solar as well as home energy efficiency measures, can help alleviate these energy cost burdens—but low-income households and other underserved populations are unlikely to see these benefits without targeted programs.
Indoor Air Pollution. Burning wood, propane, and gas for heating and cooking produces health-damaging air pollutants and can contribute to poor indoor air quality. In New Mexico, reliance on wood—which typically has the highest air pollutant emissions—is highest among low-income communities and communities of color, especially in rural settings.
Climate Resilience. Communities across New Mexico will face increasing heat, wildfire, drought, and other climate change impacts in the coming decades. Clean energy measures can help reduce energy cost burdens and provide resilience in the face of these growing impacts.
Truck Pollution. New Mexico’s transportation sector is the second-largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, after oil and gas production, and the second-largest source of particulate matter pollutant emissions, largely due to heavy-duty and medium-duty trucks.
Energy Transitions. An estimated one in fifteen New Mexicans lives within a half mile of an active oil and gas well—and may be exposed to associated health hazards. Health-harming air pollutant emissions can be partially reduced in tandem with efforts to control methane emissions. Air, water, and other oil and gas-related pollutants can be more fully reduced through an economy-wide transition away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy production.
PSE’s full analysis for New Mexico, along with an executive summary with findings, conclusions, and recommendations, will be available in March, 2021. This analysis is part of our Western States Deep Decarbonization work, and includes an analysis of the health, environment, and equity dimensions of deep decarbonization across New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado. Our work for all three states, available here, accompanies the Western States Deep Decarbonization Analysis for these states conducted by Evolved Energy, NRDC, Sierra Club, and Gridlab and available at: https://gridlab.org/works/western-states-deep-decarbonization/. To analyze the impacts of deep decarbonization in each state, we analyzed four 2020-2050 decarbonization pathways developed by Evolved Energy and described in these companion reports.