Wind and Solar Industry Favorability is 64% Among New Mexico Residents

By The Garrity Group


The renewable energy industry ranks 7th among 17 industries and institutions included in the 2020 Garrity Perception Survey. This episode of the Perception Podcast features an interview with Mr. Fernando Martinez, the executive director of the New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission Authority.

New Mexico residents have a favorable opinion of the wind and solar industry according to the 2020 Garrity Perception Survey (GPS). Among the 17 industries surveyed, the renewable energy industry is the seventh most favorable industry in the state. The scientific survey among New Mexico residents was conducted in late January 2020.

“The renewable energy industry is favorably positioning New Mexico to be a significant player in the generation and transmission of clean energy due in large part to New Mexico’s great assets in plentiful and quality wind and sunshine.” said Tom Garrity, President and CEO of The Garrity Group Public Relations. “The move to renewables is also driven by the 2019 Energy Transition Act that establishes a pathway for a low-carbon energy transition away from coal.”

According to the State of New Mexico, the Energy Transition Act sets a statewide renewable energy standard of 50 percent by 2030 for New Mexico investor-owned utilities and rural electric cooperatives and a goal of 80 percent by 2040, in addition to setting zero-carbon resources standards for investor-owned utilities by 2045 and rural electric cooperatives by 2050.

New Mexico Renewable Energy Transmission Authority’s Executive Director Fernando Martinez shared some insights about the increased favorability of the industry during a recent interview with Tom Garrity. “There are economic and environmental reasons for increased favorability of the industry. Western energy policies have changed rapidly in the last few years. There are energy policies, meant to meet environmental benefits that are going to realized in NM and the surrounding states, but it is also great economics that are driving the wind and solar industry right now. Because wind and solar are now cheaper than new gas and new coal and that is even without the incentives of investment tax credits and production tax credits. We can say that wind and solar are now a large part of the new energy markets based solely on low cost. And we expect by early 2030s that n w s will be cheaper than existing gas.”

New Mexican’s favorability of the renewable energy industry has been consistently favorable, hovering right around 60 percent since the GPS started in 2011. Residents who are likely to have a favorable impression of the renewable energy industry includes voters who are registered as a democrat, have a graduate degree, household income of $40,000-$79,99 each year and between 50-64 years of age.

Geographically, residents in the North Central region are the most favorable of wind and solar industry. New Mexicans living in Albuquerque and the Las Cruces area are also favorable of the industry.

About the Garrity Perception Survey and P.A.C.E.

The 2020 Garrity Perception Survey is a scientific survey of New Mexico residents conducted by Research & Polling Inc. The survey has a 95% level of confidence. The Garrity Group first commissioned the survey in 2011 and makes its cross-tab data available to help its clients identify and understand their target audience. The PACE solution leverages the demographic and geographic insights as a way for our clients to be relevant before their New Mexico audience. Identifying how our clients are Perceived by their Audiences, we Create a way for them to Engage relevant advocates. For more information visit

Full Transcript

Tom Garrity, The Garrity Group [00:00:43] New Mexico residents have a favorable opinion of the renewable energy industry. According to the 20 20 Garity perceptions surveyed, the wind and solar industry has a 64 percent favorability rating among New Mexico residents. Hello, this is Tom Garrity. And today, as we dig into the 2020 Garity Perceptions survey, we have the opportunity to speak with Mr. Fernando Martinez, the executive director of the Renewable Energy and Transmission Authority, also known as RETA. Mr. Martinez, thank you so much for your time to speak with me today.

Fernando Martinez, NM RETA [00:01:18] Thank you, Mr. Garrity, for visiting with me on renewable energy and transmission issues, I appreciate this wonderful opportunity to get more information out there.

[00:01:28] It’s super critical to New Mexico at this time. 

Tom Garrity, The Garrity Group [00:01:31] Indeed. And before we jump into the 20 20 G.P.S. findings, will you kind of inform our viewers and listeners with a little bit more insight about what RETA is in your role with the organization as its executive director? 

Fernando Martinez, NM RETA [00:01:46] Yes. RETA was established back by the New Mexico legislature back in 2007 to plan finance, develop and acquire high voltage transmission lines and energy storage projects to promote economic development in New Mexico. It’s only one of seven state level transmission authorities in the United States, and it’s only the second one to have issued bonds. 

[00:02:11] All projects that RETA sponsors have to have. At least 30 percent of the power originate from renewable resources. And to date, happy to report that all of RETA’s current projects have all their power originate from one hundred percent renewable resources. So that that’s really the purpose of RETA. What we’re finding the key to a more renewable energy development in New Mexico is really transmission transmission to Mexico right now is operating at or near or at full capacity. So that’s going to be the key thing for meeting both in state and at a state demands.

Tom Garrity, The Garrity Group [00:02:56] Has the Energy Transition Act come into play along those lines, of course, it was passed in to into law. About a year and a half ago. How much of a factor does that play in complementing redesign this mission?

Fernando Martinez, NM RETA [00:03:10] Well, RETA is an essential link in supporting the Energy Transition Act because that requires 100 percent zero carbon electricity for utilities by 2045 five and rural electric cooperatives by 2050. So since transmission is a limiting factor for more renewable energy develop, it’s going to be the key thing. We do know from some studies that have been done out there that the Energy Transition Act is going to drive about four gigawatts of needed renewables by 2030.

[00:03:44] So it’s a it’s a very large amount of renewable energy that’s going to be needed in the next 10 years. So RETA will be playing a crucial role in that Energy Transition Act in 2012. 

Tom Garrity, The Garrity Group [00:03:59] Turning to the perceptions survey. Fifty seven percent of residents were favorable of the solar and wind industry. Today, in our 20 20 survey, 64 percent of residents are favorable of the renewable energy industry. What do you make of the increased favorability of the industry. 

Fernando Martinez, NM RETA [00:04:18] I think there are both economic and environmental reasons for the increased favorability of the industry. Give you some examples here. You know, Western energy policies have changed rapidly in the last few years. You know, as I mentioned just a little earlier, as we’re talking about the example of the Energy Transition Act requiring 100 percent zero carbon electricity for utilities by 2040, five rural electric cooperatives by 2050, drive, you know, four gigawatts of renewables by 2030, just in New Mexico alone. But if you look at the surrounding states as well, 78 percent of the energy used in the West is now aligned on decarbonization. So those similar policies in our surrounding states in the West drive about 100 gigawatts of renewables by 2035. So you have these increased energy policies are that are meant to meet, you know, environmental benefits that that are going to be realized in New Mexico and in the surrounding states. But it’s also great economics that are driving, you know, wind and solar industry right now because wind and solar are now cheaper than new gas and new coal, and that’s even without the incentives of the investment tax credit and the production tax credits. So we can say that wind and solar are now a large part of the new energy markets based solely on low costs. And we expect by the early 20, 30 years that new wind and solar will be cheaper than existing gas. 

[00:05:55] And I think people are starting to realize that that one important thing is having an organized Western grid that will you know, it’s going to require transmission upgrades and a flexible grid. So, you know, New Mexico is not in this alone. We do have to have an organized Western grid. The more interconnections we have on this grid system, the more we’re able to put renewables on that system.

Tom Garrity, The Garrity Group [00:06:22] If you could Mr Martinez, speak to the industry from your perspective. New Mexico is a great wind and solar resource. But are some of the biggest challenges that are facing the industry today?

Fernando Martinez, NM RETA [00:06:35] Well, you know, as I mentioned a little earlier in the interview, transmission access is critical. It represents a critical barrier to enabling with oil exports out of state, but also for meeting state needs. And we see that with four significant renewable energy to development to be realized, we could increase these pathways to the Western states with increased transmission capacity. And, you know, as we talked about earlier, in state delivery of renewables for the energy transition, that goals will require transmission system reinforcement to maintain reliability on this system.

[00:07:14] But some of the bigger challenges, of course, associated with this are successful siting. That’s essential if transmission projects are for renewables or to be built.

[00:07:28] So some of the you know, when you look at this is a main barrier. The siting process can discourage needed transmission development. You know, it’s such a. Process of many challenges, it can lead to higher transmission costs and in some cases even project failure.

[00:07:47] So siting is a real key thing, you know, keeping in contact with concerned citizens, with local governments, working with the counties and our legislators. And, you know, it’s going to take a real team effort. We’re in a very fortunate position right now to have a governor and full support of renewable energy. We have many members of both the state legislature, in the state legislature, in the Senate and in the House that are supportive of this. And so that we know we understand that there’s some challenges that are being posed here by siting. You know, one of the things is New Mexico does have the ability to deliver some of the lowest cost renewable energy resources in our region. You know, by far and away. And we have a competitive advantage right now. So, you know, avoiding implement any upfront barriers to the renewable energy industry or the transmission system building is really key to keeping that competitive advantage.

Tom Garrity, The Garrity Group [00:08:52] And I would imagine as well, there’s a lot of folks don’t really know a whole lot about the process to get transmission put into place, because there’s not just items at the local and the county level, but there’s also federal requirements as well. So it’s not as easy as just springing up a line in one’s backyard. As far as if you want to put up a string of lights.

Fernando Martinez, NM RETA [00:09:17] Oh, I mean, there’s a you’re exactly right. There are an enormous amount of federal and state requirements that need to be met.

[00:09:28] As you go through this process and, you know, I’ll give you one example is are Western Spirit Project, which we expect to start construction this fall, has been going at it since, you know, 10 years now. And it’s gone through a number of reviews and approvals at both the local and state levels as well as the federal level. So there’s just a lot that goes into this process and it’s a tremendous challenge.

Tom Garrity, The Garrity Group [00:09:59] And our interview is taking place on July 2nd. Twenty twenty as we move through this era of COVID 19. How has it slowed down the work of RETA or if that on.

Fernando Martinez, NM RETA [00:10:13] Well, I mean, I think as you’ve seen, COVID 19, has certainly impacted industries in one way or another across the board. However, the renewable energy industry in New Mexico remains strong. In fact, it’s the only industry in New Mexico that I’m aware of that is currently investing billions of dollars in our state and it continues to plan to invest billions more. So at this time, we just busier than ever. I think everybody just sees a tremendous value in and taking advantage of our renewable resources that we have. We just have tremendous potential here. And as I mentioned earlier, we’re in a amazing position to deliver low cost energy for in-state use and attestations as well.

Tom Garrity, The Garrity Group [00:10:59] That’s some great perspective. You know, as we flip over back to the 20 20 Garrity Perceptions survey, the crosstab data shows the demographic base of support of renewables that includes independent voters, residents age 50 to 64 years, and college graduates. Those are among the industry’s strongest supporters. Your response? 

Fernando Martinez, NM RETA [00:11:23] Think, first of all, I’m happy to have such a broad base of support for renewable energy. You know, and again, you know, I refer back to some of my answers earlier. I just really believe that the Western energy policy is changing rapidly in the last few years. And the great economics are what’s really driving renewable energy. And people are taking notice of this and showing growing support for the renewable energy industry, I think.

[00:11:49] You know, I think everyone sees this now as just a wave that’s just going to come and it’s just the way of the future at this point. And I think as more and more people get educated, will even get a broader base of support. 

Tom Garrity, The Garrity Group [00:12:02] You know, and agree, in addition to the demographics as far as age, income, number of years, somebody has lived in New Mexico. We’re also we also the opportunity to look at things from a geographic perspective. And in north central New Mexico and the Albuquerque area, those are the two geographies that are very supportive of the industry. And even just a little bit stronger than wind rich eastern New Mexico and sun rich southwestern New Mexico. What’s your take on that data?

Fernando Martinez, NM RETA [00:12:36] Well, you know, part of my past experience is I was the energy director of the Energy Conservation Management Division at the Energy Minerals and Natural Resources Department back starting in 2006. And many policies since around that time, 2006, 2007 were put into place. You know, a lot of energy efficiency programs, energy conservation programs, clean fuels programs, renewable portfolio standards, all this sort of stuff which was put into effect at that time and utilities were required to take part in those areas. So, for instance, the solar market development tax freed a lot of people, started putting rooftop solar things of that sort of building sustainable buildings. And in particular, PNM has played a key role. And, of course, they serve a lot of the geographic areas you’re talking about, like Santa Fe and Albuquerque and promoting these energy efficient and energy conservation programs, you know, as well as renewable energy development. So I think that’s a lot of the reason why you’re seeing that type of support in those regions of the states, just that they’ve been at it for many years promoting these types of programs. And I think other counties and other regions to the state are quickly catching up as well. 

Tom Garrity, The Garrity Group [00:14:05] Great insights. Any additional insights about the industry you’d like to share?

Fernando Martinez, NM RETA [00:14:11] Well, you know, again, I just want to remind everyone that New Mexico has just tremendous renewable resources in both solar and wind and other sources as well. But what we need is transmission access. That’s what’s critical to it. You know, the transmission, development and expansion are enormously important to renewable energy development. 

[00:14:36] New Mexico can deliver the lowest cost renewable energy around, and there are in-state and out-of-state demands for thousands of megawatts of vast renewable energy resources. Reid is playing a very clear role in that. And, you know, we can say that it’s clear that the reader legislation is accomplishing what Mexico set it out to do in 2007.

[00:14:57] We have multi hundred million dollar transmission projects moving toward completion and continuing the Reed operations is critical, as we talked about earlier, the passage of the energy transition that shows that New Mexico is becoming a national leader in renewable energy. The Western energy markets are demanding enormous amounts of renewable energy. And the work we’re doing with transmission building is this is the essential link allowing our state to make renewables work and upgrading our transmission grid.

Tom Garrity, The Garrity Group [00:15:32] Mr. Fernando Martinez, executive director of the Renewable Energy and Transmission Authority. Thank you so much for your time today, Mr. Garrity.

Fernando Martinez, NM RETA [00:15:41] I’ve enjoyed talking with you today and hope we can do it again soon and wish you a happy Fourth of July weekend.

Tom Garrity, The Garrity Group [00:15:48] Thank you very much. I appreciate that. For more insights about the Garrity Perceptions survey, please visit

Published July 17, 2020


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