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City of Las Cruces Works Toward Net-Zero Impact

PR Newswire

The city of Las Cruces is working to develop sustainable building policies that will incentivize electric use.

City Sustainability Specialist Jenny Hernandez says that adapting design standards to promote both solar and electric vehicle use will help to generate a net-zero impact.

“We need to make sure that the infrastructure is there, so it has the capacity to provide the energy needs that it's going to require,” Hernandez said. “This includes pushing forward design standards that move us toward electrification such as solar, E.V. charges and again, making sure that infrastructure is there.”

One council priority is ensuring homes can accommodate the charging of electric vehicles. Mayor Ken Miyagishima says the council should look into making charging capabilities a requirement for new construction.

“If they have the plug-in for electric vehicles, it sends a message every day that they see it. ‘Like, I wonder what these electric vehicles are about? Maybe I should just get one,’” Miyagishima said.

Miyagishima is also suggesting an increase in gas installation costs to incentivize electric use over natural gas.

“The public doesn't like being told you have to do this,” Miyagishima said. “But if you do it in a way where they think, ‘Okay, well, you know what, it is kind of cost-prohibitive, I'll just go electric.’ You're probably not going to have anyone who wants to do that…I think by 2030 no more gas but ramp up toward there.”

Councilor Gill Sorg is calling for a resolution mandating that all new city buildings be electric. While he’s advocating for all new construction to eventually go all-electric, Sorg says existing users should not worry about having natural gas taken away.

“I've gotten an email or two that has gotten the wrong impression, that they thought their natural gas service supply was going to be taken away from them, and that’s not true at all,” Sorg said. “We're not going to take natural gas away from those who have it now. We're just trying not to have any new customers.”

Sorg cites climate change as the main reason why increased electric use is warranted—and he’s not the only one voicing the need for expediency. Councilor Johana Bencomo says the city must help low-income residents deal with the worsening climate crisis.

“I think everything we do moving forward has to have an anti-poverty lens,” Bencomo said. “Climate change is here, and it will disproportionately impact low-income families, low-income people, people of color. And so, whatever we do must have a very, very specific equity lens in it to ensure that low-income folks aren't stuck with an outdated gas system in 20-30 years.”

Increasing the El Paso Electric franchise fee from 2% to 3% is one way Mayor Miyagishima says the city could help low-income residents become more energy efficient.

“We can help some of our neighbors in certain parts of the community,” Miyagishima said. “That 1% overall is like $5, but to them, it's going to save them $30-$35 a month on their energy costs.”

Additionally, both the general public and the city can take advantage of select state and federal rebates to help offset the cost of investing in more sustainable practices. One such opportunity is through the Zero-Emission Homes Act, introduced by U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) in 2021, which offers rebates for electric appliances.

“Just last month, I introduced the Zero-Emission Homes Act to establish rebates that will make clean electrified appliances affordable and accessible to all Americans,” Heinrich said. “And I continue to fight for policies that will help New Mexico build a thriving clean energy future, while also making sure that New Mexicans are not left behind by the transition away from fossil fuels.”

Madison Staten was a Multimedia Reporter for KRWG Public Media from 2020-2022.