SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico needs energy to function, and with the winding down of coal-fired power, the state is looking for renewable sources that could help keep the lights on for New Mexicans. One potential option could be geothermal energy.

Tuesday, legislators considered House Bill 365. Sponsored by a handful of Democratic legislators, the bill would put geothermal research and development in the hands of New Mexico Tech.

The bill would make a “Center for Excellence” at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. The center would focus on developing and promoting geothermal energy.

Bill supporters have highlighted geothermal energy, which uses heat from underground to generate electricity, as a way to potentially provide zero-emission power for around 10% of the state’s clean-energy needs. In addition, infrastructure from the oil and gas industry could be re-purposed, they say. The bill would also provide over $25 million towards geothermal projects.

A big sticking point for energy, of course, is cost. Tom Solomon, a member of the Geothermal Working Group that helped come up with the bill, says geothermal energy could be cost-competitive. Once geothermal operations are running, they can be “significantly cheaper than nuclear [power], and not quite as cheap as solar and wind,” he explained in the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday.

Legislators in the committee expressed optimism towards the idea. “Geothermal energy has been around for some time, and I think has always had great potential,” Rep. Greg Nibert (R-Ruidoso & Roswell) said. “I do think that this is an avenue we need to explore and probably needed to explore sooner than 2023. “

The committee ultimately voted to move the bill forward. At the same time, there’s a similar bill working its way through Senate committees, meaning that there’s an improved chance for a geothermal bill to make it through the session.