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New Mexico rural electric co-op making headway on renewable energy

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Roz Brown

(New Mexico News Connection) Latino and Hispanic workers make up about 18-percent of the U.S, clean-energy workforce, and a New Mexico company wants to make sure their work reaches communities of color. Since 2010, the Kit Carson Electric Cooperative serving Taos and surrounding communities has been moving toward a goal of total renewable energy. 

Kit Carson Electric Cooperative CEO Luis Reyes said it reached a milestone this year. The company was able to offer 100 percent daytime solar energy and broadband internet service to all users. As a recreational destination, Reyes says local residents support a clean-energy economy.

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"The type of energy that we produce, or the emissions from that, is really important to that kind of quality of life and economic foundation. So, I think the next step is how do we then leverage emerging technologies such as storage or batteries to become a more resilient, safer and cleaner community," he continued. 

The U.S. Department of Energy says clean energy jobs increased in every state from 2021 to 2022. 

The group - Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO) - produced a case study to highlight the co-op's success. 

Executive Director Camilla Simon noted that burning fossil fuels and extreme weather events caused by climate change disproportionally impact Hispanic communities - especially in New Mexico, which is a major producer of oil and natural gas. She said that means rural electric cooperatives play a critical role in the clean-economy transition.

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"The hope is that other rural co-ops in New Mexico would follow suit by increasing their renewable energy mix and building out broadband with electricity in mind and renewable energy in mind," she said. 

The Kit Carson Cooperative has been able to tap into the federal government's 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 to help meet customer needs. 

Max Trujillo, a field coordinator with San Miguel County and HECHO commissioner said he is happy to see barriers to renewable energy being removed and the wheels of innovation rolling.

"We just need to become a spoke and just be part of it. So, I think those barriers are getting broken down because you can't ignore it - this is so big - and I hope that other co-ops and other states and everything will kind-of keep that lead," he said.