New Mexico Green Chamber CEO Takes Long View on Renewables

By Garry Boulard

Construction Reporter News

March 17, 2014

New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce CEO Laura E. Sanchez at the Santa Fe Roundhouse
By normal standards, the recently-concluded 2014 session of the New Mexico State Legislature was hardly a roaring success for the New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber was particularly enthusiastic about the Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit bill, which made it out of the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee as well as the Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee.

A second bill backed by the Chamber, the Home Energy and Water Efficiency Credit, won the approval of the House Revenue and Taxation Committee.

But neither bill ultimately saw final passage.

“The budget was finally passed by both houses late in the session, the day before the last day,” says Laura E. Sanchez, “and a lot of the individual programs and credits that different groups including ours were supporting just didn’t make it thru.”

But Sanchez, a former attorney for the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department who became the chief executive officer of the Green Chamber last spring, takes the long view, noting that more members of both chambers are generally supportive of green legislation than ever before.

“I started to work full time in 2007 on renewable energy issues and there was a sense then that it was a fringe issue and that there was a lot of work to be done articulating the advantages of renewable energy, not just regarding the environment, but also as it relates to business,” says Sanchez.

By business, Sanchez says she means “the actual profitability and potential benefits for landowners, especially when we consider drought conditions—many of the landowners now support renewable energy because it is one option for them to make good use of their land when they can’t otherwise use it for livestock or agriculture.”

Because lawmakers are in regular touch with such constituents, but are also, says Sanchez, more aware of green issues than in the past, up to a third of the current House membership “is with us in terms of accepting renewable energy and the benefits of renewable energy for our state.”

Another third “we have to work on,” says Sanchez.

“Then there is the last third, but I would not put it along party lines, although sometimes it is a rural versus urban situation.”

In the Senate, “the split is more along party lines,” she continues. “But we also have some forward-looking Republicans who are aware of the business benefits of having more renewable energy in New Mexico.”

Founded in 2010, the New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce’s mission is to promote businesses and foster the success of local economies that are dedicated to what the organization calls the “Three P’s”: people, planet and profit.

To that end, the organization has in particular reached out to the state and local construction industry.

“The economy has had such a huge impact on the way people think about potential opportunities,” explains Sanchez. “The fact that we are not building traditional or even commercial buildings here in New Mexico at the same rate as we have in the past means that people are more open to adapting to what is achievable.”

Sanchez continues: “The construction industry has been able to adapt to work on a lot of retrofits on the energy efficiency side, as well as other things on the renewable energy side.”

The New Mexico Green Chamber of Commerce’s membership has in the last four years all been on the upside, with a current member total in excess of 1100 and individual chapters set up in cities across the state.

Unlike many other state-wide business groups, the Green Chamber’s membership is not Albuquerque or Santa Fe-heavy. “In fact, two of our strongest chapters are in Las Cruces and Silver City,” says Sanchez.