eLab Accelerator 2020

Land Use Process for Renewable Energy and Transmission Development

Large view on the powerlines and the windmills on the field

Project Description

As New Mexico moves to realize the ambitious clean energy goals established by the state’s Energy Transition Act of 2019, the state and its residents must grapple with the land use implications of the requisite acceleration of renewable energy and transmission development. Project siting and development decisions have often created conflict between landowners, developers, environmental groups, and utilities, leading to distrust, suboptimal outcomes, and a slower rate of deployment for clean energy resources.

The New Mexico Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department sought new ways of approaching land use planning for renewable energy projects. They wanted approaches that both speed project completions and center community needs, based on a collaborative understanding of the history of the land and a sense of investment and ownership for New Mexicans in the energy transition.

The team was comprised of developers, regulators, planners, environmental advocates, and landowners. They came to Accelerator with the hope of building trust among the convened stakeholders, in addition to identifying interventions or processes that can catalyze broadly supported approaches to renewable energy and transmission development.

January 2021 update: Draft white paper from EMNRD on creating a statewide transmission planning group.

What The Team Achieved By Participating in Accelerator

The team was excited by the opportunity that e-Lab Accelerator offers to bring the diverse stakeholders involved in these land use decisions to the table in a neutral setting. Through discussions facilitated at Accelerator, the project team explored the primary points of conflict inherent in current renewable energy development processes. They were able to move into conversation about land use planning tools and practices that could help ameliorate these conflicts.

Together the team drafted best practice land use principles and initial recommendations to speed inclusive, equitable, and environmentally responsible transmission and utility-scale renewables buildout in New Mexico. They are now socializing the draft and submitting their proposal to leadership review within their respective organizations. Ultimately, the draft should serve as an actionable manual to guide New Mexico’s Renewable Energy Transition Authority, as well as other interested entities, through the process of renewable generation and transmission siting.

Team Members

- AnnaLinden Weller, NM Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Dept (EMNRD), Policy Advisor

- Fernando Martinez, NM Renewable Energy Transmission Authority (RETA), Executive Director

- Brian Johnson, NM Renewable Energy Transmission Authority (RETA), Clean Energy Engineer

- Johnny Casana, Pattern Energy, US Political & Regulatory Affairs Director

- Jeremy Turner, Pattern Energy, Director of New Mexico Development

- Nada Culver, Audubon Society, VP of Public Lands and Sr. Policy Counsel

- Don Schreiber, Devil's Spring Ranch, Rancher, landowner

- Lani Marina Tsinnajinnie, University of NM, Assistant Professor of Community & Regional Planning