WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Co-Founder and Co-Chair of the Electrification Caucus in Congress, delivered virtual keynote remarks at the American Solar Energy Society’s 51st Annual National Solar Conference, SOLAR 2022, which is being hosted this week at the University of New Mexico.
“As New Mexico’s senator, I am focused on how we can accelerate the deployment of both residential and utility-scale solar in every corner of our state—and all across the nation,” said Heinrich during his remarks. “Clean and affordable energy can lower monthly utility bills and dramatically reduce the energy burden on household budgets. And the growing clean energy economy is building careers here in New Mexico and around the country.”
Heinrich expressed, “I am continuing to press for the Senate to come back to the table to pass new, transformative investments in clean energy and climate action. That includes more pro-growth tax incentives for solar and wind energy.”
Senator Heinrich also discussed his successful recent effort to secure a reprieve for American solar companies from the Auxin solar tariff petition before the U.S. Commerce Department.
“Earlier this month, I was pleased to see President Biden provide American solar companies with a reprieve from the impacts of the Auxin tariff case that had literally frozen the American solar industry and caused thousands of layoffs,” said Heinrich. “It’s going to take time for solar companies to climb out of the crater created by this whole episode. But I am grateful that President Biden recognized the need to provide needed certainty to this industry at such a pivotal moment in the energy transition.”
Senator Heinrich’s full remarks as prepared for delivery are below.
Thank you to all of the members of the American Solar Energy Society for inviting me to share a few words with you as part of SOLAR 2022.
I hope those of you attending this conference in person are finding some time in between your sessions to enjoy your time in New Mexico.
New Mexico is privileged to have some of the best solar resources on Earth, but it is also home to many landscapes that you will find difficult to forget.
We are also home to some of the sharpest energy minds at our two national labs, at our colleges and universities, and in our innovative solar manufacturing and installation companies.
And thanks in large part to the hard work and advocacy from solar champions like all of you, New Mexico is leading the nation in a number of policies that actually encourage the deployment of solar generation.
After all, policy does matter in the clean energy space.
In recent years, I have supported several historic victories for solar at the state level.
That includes solar tax credits for homes and businesses that our Legislature passed in 2020.
A new statewide community solar program that was established last year.
And maybe most importantly, we also have net metering programs at both of our larger utilities and in many of our state’s smaller electric co-ops.
Earlier this year, the Kit Carson Electric Co-op in northern New Mexico achieved its goal of 100% daytime solar generation—showing what’s possible with the right investments and willpower.
As New Mexico’s senator, I am focused on how we can accelerate the deployment of both residential and utility-scale solar in every corner of our state—and all across the nation.
My own personal interest in photovoltaics began back in the early 1990s.
At the time, I was a mechanical engineering student at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and I was part of the university’s solar car team.
We designed and built a carbon fiber solar car called the Sun Tiger that we raced from Dallas all the way to Minneapolis.
That experience really opened my eyes to the possibilities for solar energy generation and also energy efficiency.
So it should come as no surprise that I have had rooftop solar on my home in Albuquerque since the early 2000s.
In fact, I am currently putting a 10 kW array on my house with the help of one of our locally-owned solar installation companies.
This array will power my home, charge my car, and save me money on my monthly power bills.
Throughout my time serving in both the House and Senate, I have focused my attention on advancing investments in research, development, and the deployment of clean energy technologies.
There is no more urgent mission than transitioning to a 100% hydrocarbon-free power sector.
The hydrocarbons that you and I are putting into the atmosphere from our homes, offices, and vehicles are fueling catastrophic wildfires, reducing our snowpack, and contributing to the worst drought New Mexico has seen in 1,200 years.
Our reliance on those same hydrocarbons is also propping up Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked aggression and horrific war crimes in Ukraine.
And it is leading to costly gas prices and more expensive monthly utility bills for New Mexico families.
Clean energy will not only help us meet our moral and strategic imperative to act on climate.
It’s also a kitchen table issue.
Clean and affordable energy can lower monthly utility bills and dramatically reduce the energy burden on household budgets.
And the growing clean energy economy is building careers here in New Mexico and around the country.
I will always be proud that one of my first votes in Congress was on the 2009 Recovery Act that kick-started the renewables industry and brought down prices to where solar is now the cheapest form of energy on the planet.
In 2015, and again in 2020, I negotiated the extensions of the tax credits that have proven to be one of our most successful federal tools for encouraging the construction of new clean energy projects.
Right now, I am continuing to press for the Senate to come back to the table to pass new, transformative investments in clean energy and climate action.
That includes more pro-growth tax incentives for solar and wind energy.
Tax credits for energy storage, which is absolutely essential to reach the clean energy penetration on our grid that we’ll need as we transition to a zero-carbon economy.
Over the last few years, utility-scale storage and home battery technologies have come down in cost dramatically.
Storage also provides a whole host of services to the grid.
In a few years, I predict that almost all rooftop solar installs will be paired with on-site storage.
And as we encourage new utility-scale wind and solar projects to be wind-plus-storage and solar-plus-storage projects, we will drive down costs and enhance grid resilience and reliability.
I am also focused on advancing stronger policies and powerful tax incentives to encourage private industry to build new high-voltage transmission lines that will allow us to dramatically expand our grid’s capacity for new clean power.
The lack of transmission capacity is the single greatest limiting factor on how many large-scale clean energy projects we can bring online.
According to a recent U.S. Department of Energy report, there is more than 930 GW of solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, and nuclear capacity currently sitting in interconnection queues awaiting access to transmission.
There is an additional 420 GW of energy storage.
That’s enough to meet an 80% clean energy share by 2030 if we just had the transmission to make it real.
That’s almost the whole ballgame!
The limiting factor is all the congestion and lack of interconnection in our transmission infrastructure.
That’s why we need to do all we can to eliminate the obstacles that are standing in the way of the new transmission lines that will form the backbone of our affordable, clean, and resilient energy future.
I am also fighting to pass the voluntary, point-of-sale rebates in my bill, the Zero-Emission Homes Act, to help families with the upfront costs of installing clean and efficient electric home appliances like air-source heat pumps and induction stoves.
Just like electric vehicles, these home and commercial building appliances help us do our part to eliminate climate-warming pollution.
They are also less costly to operate than their dirty, fossil gas-powered alternatives.
In addition to calling for more deployment of solar technologies, I hope that all of you will join me in the effort to electrify our homes and businesses.
Finally, I am doing all I can to make sure we aren’t creating self-inflicted wounds that stand in the way of urgent progress.
Earlier this month, I was pleased to see President Biden provide American solar companies with a reprieve from the impacts of the Auxin tariff case that had literally frozen the American solar industry and caused thousands of layoffs.
Over the last few months, I heard directly from numerous solar companies in New Mexico and across the country that the Commerce Department’s decision to even open an investigation in this case created major disruptions in their operations.
It stifled billions of dollars of investment.
And it put far too many critical solar projects on hold.
That’s why I convened leaders from throughout the solar industry and led a bipartisan effort in Congress to call on President Biden, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to take decisive action.
It’s going to take time for solar companies to climb out of the crater created by this whole episode.
But I am grateful that President Biden recognized the need to provide needed certainty to this industry at such a pivotal moment in the energy transition.
I was also pleased to see the President invoke the Defense Production Act to scale up our domestic manufacturing of clean technologies such as heat pumps, solar components, and electrolyzers.
Those White House actions come on top of the billions of dollars of new investments in energy R&D, a nationwide electric vehicle charging network, and grid resilience that we passed as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
But if we are going to truly meet this moment, we must steer more transformative investments in the deployment of clean energy generation and climate action across the finish line in the Senate and onto President Biden’s desk.
And we also need to stand up and fight back against anti-solar and anti-clean energy state and local policies—from State Legislatures and especially from State utility regulators—that are keeping us from moving quickly enough to meet this moment.
That’s where all of you can come in.
Please keep raising your voices to tell your elected officials—from your members of Congress to your city councilors and local utility commissions—that investing in solar and clean energy is a key priority.
If we make the right policy choices now, at the local, federal, and international level, we take on the greatest problem of our generation with solutions that will make a real difference.
When I think about why this is so important, I think about what kind of world I am passing along to my own sons.
I want to leave them with the clean air, clean water, and livable planet that they deserve to inherit.
That will only be possible if we implement solutions quickly and at scale.
If we do this right, we can also tap into the greatest opportunity in a generation to help families lower their energy bills, and create millions of new, good-paying careers.
Thank you for what each of you are doing to create those solutions.
And with that, I welcome some of your questions.