The 2005 Energy Policy Act, which is scheduled to be signed by President Bush Monday in Albuquerque was hailed by New Mexico officials as a boost for the expanded development of renewable energy, something this state views as a part of its longer term economic development. Participants at a renewable conference earlier this week in Santa Fe expressed a lot of optimism over the bipartisan-support legislation, the first comprehensive energy policy law in more than a decade.

“There are good things for renewables, and the new law is a Christmas tree for other sources of energy,” said Robert Gough, an attorney and secretary with the South Dakota-based Inter-Tribal Council on Utility Policy, who attended this week’s renewable conference. Gough is also active on the advisory committee of the Western Governors’ Association (WGA) that is pushing for 30,000 MW of new renewables over the next ten years, something he thinks will be helped by the new federal energy law.

New Mexico’s junior U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) told local news media at the renewable conference that the new law is “probably the most significant legislation that we have passed to encourage renewables,.” noting that on balance, he supported the overall bill, although a national RPS standard was left out. And an official from the Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico called the prospects for renewables in his state “huge.”

“There are some important provisions in the new law that will help renewables and coal,” said Rich Halvey, the energy advisory committee project manager for WGA in Denver. “If your business is wind or solar, you could have wanted more, but there are positive steps for each.”

“The new energy policy act personally leaves me with no doubts that 30,000 MW of new renewables is achievable across the 18 [Western] states,” said Ned Farquhar, energy advisor to New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, one of the two leaders of the WGA energy initiative kicked off early last year

One possible stumbling block is the fact that Texas has not been “actively participating” in the WGA effort so far, Farquhar said.”Gov. [Rick] Perry just doesn’t really pay much attention to WGA, so that might change the 30,000 MW target because that is a pretty big state not to have in the mix.” Almost all the other governors are participating. “Overall, the [WGA] process seems to be going really well.”

All of this means that New Mexico consumers and energy producers will have more opportunities to support renewable energy development, Bingaman told news media, following the two-day Southwest Renewable Energy Conference in Santa Fe.

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