Doubling down on campaign promises to provide cheaper solar energy for Santa Fe, Mayor Javier Gonzales said today that he will soon start rallying support to establish a city-owned power company.

Speaking briefly during an event touted as a "Climate Action Summit," Gonzales explained that city Councilor Peter Ives plans to formally introduce a measure to further that goal.

In an interview later, Ives says he's proposing that the city seek a contract with an energy consultant who can "develop a pathway for the city to find [renewable energy] on our own."

At the summit, where the mayor was advertised as a "host" but only breezed in to make his speech and then quickly left, Gonzales noted what he calls that Santa Fe's "partnership" with the Public Service Company of New Mexico is still in place, but there hasn't been enough progress in lowering costs and providing comprehensive solar energy. PNM holds a monopoly on electricity service in the city.

According to the Santa Fe Association of Realtors 2014 Affordable Housing Report, 40 percent of those in Santa Fe rent their homes. Also, 46 percent of residents are considered cost burdened by their homes, meaning that more than 30 percent of their annual income is spent on housing and utilities.

While a portion of PNM's power comes from renewables, Gonzales says Santa Fe wants more solar.

"I want to deliver a solar project to this community," said Gonzales, "one that dedicates at least 20 percent of its resources to low-income renters who can't easily access solar power, due to its cost, and the fact that they don't own homes."

The mayor mentioned that PNM is pledging 16 22-electric vehicle charging stations for electric cars to be placed throughout Santa Fe. Yet, Gonzales says he's ready for the city to start figuring out how a municipal power authority would function without the company.

"We need to pursue our own efforts in finding a solution," he said.
Ives says the city has been negotiating with PNM about ways the company can provide more solar-generated power to homes and businesses, but those talks haven't resulted in an agreement.

If the city did settle on municipalizing the power utility here, some kind of transfer of infrastructure would likely be necessary. A 2012 report conducted by New Energy Economy estimated that with a $155 million investment, Santa Fe could take ownership of its electricity.

The summit included presentations on the city's water, energy efficiency, renewable energy and transportation efforts in keeping Santa Fe green. Of note, a detailed report from Sustainable Santa Fe regarding environmental efficiency is scheduled for release in mid-November.

Peter St. Cyr contributed to this report.