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NM's transmission challenge

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham

Lujan Grisham in 2022. Photo: Adria Malcolm/Bloomberg via Getty Images

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is confident the SunZia transmission line will stay on track despite recent challenges from tribes.

Why it matters: The long-delayed project to send renewable power from New Mexico to West Coast population centers is a symbol of the biggest challenges to the energy transition.

  • The governor talked with Axios about New Mexico's transition plans and what Washington can learn from the states about climate policy.

Driving the news: Lujan Grisham said she believes SunZia will get built. She commended the Biden administration for getting the federal permitting process across the finish line.

  • But she said the company behind the project "could have done a little more work collaborating with sovereign nations."
  • Having the state "invest some time and energy there, I think, can mitigate a lot of that," she said. But "it may not interrupt all those lawsuits, and it might change some of [the] design."

Context: The project broke ground last year — after nearly two decades of planning and permitting.

  • But tribes and environmental groups have sued to stop it, and construction was briefly suspended last year in response to tribal concerns.
  • Pattern Energy, the company behind the project, "has always put the protection of tribal cultural resources at the forefront of this project and will continue to do so," a company spokesperson said in an email.

Between the lines: This is a big project for New Mexico, which has an energy transition law, a net zero goal by 2050 and is looking to become a player in renewables.

  • The lengthy process to get projects like SunZia in the ground is one obstacle that Lujan Grisham sees.
  • Modernizing the grid, she said, is taking too long, and that compounds supply chain challenges in the renewable energy industry.
  • "I can build another 40,000 acres of solar fields," she told us. "I can quadruple the amount of battery storage we have. I can have two of North America's largest wind energy farms … but I can't put enough of those green electrons onto antiquated grids."
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