Don’t Let Big Utilities Dominate Solar

Regina Wheeler, Contributor
Sunpower by Positive Energy Solar CEO
12/11/2017 10:01 am ET

Santa Fe leaders should ensure that clean energy resources are owned by the people — not investor-obsessed utility monopolies.

Santa Fe has long been on the cutting edge of green innovation. Under Mayor Javier Gonzales, the city has pioneered programs like the Verde Fund to fight climate change and poverty as well as a tiered water-pricing system to spur cost-effective conservation.

But, this month, the city is on the verge of taking a backward step.

The City Council is poised to vote on a resolution that sets the stage for construction of a new 3.5-megawatt photovoltaic project to be built, owned, and operated by the investor-owned utility monopoly, Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM).

While we need a quick transition to clean energy, this decision would, in fact, hurt the cause. By creating a precedent of letting monopoly players dominate public solar projects, the plan would undermine New Mexico’s diverse and competitive clean energy sector—potentially putting small clean energy firms out of business.

 

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Tribal leaders press feds on drilling plan in New Mexico

By Susan Montoya Bryan / Associated Press
Published: Friday, December 2nd, 2016 at 1:56pm
Updated: Friday, December 2nd, 2016 at 4:10pm
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Leaders from several American Indian communities want federal land managers to consider the cultural significance of a large swath of land surrounding Chaco Cultural National Historic Park as they plan for more oil and gas development in northwestern New Mexico.
The All Pueblo Council of Governors recently passed a resolution calling for the Bureau of Land Management to make permanent a 10-mile buffer around Chaco park. They’re also asking for the federal agency to develop a master leasing plan that takes into consideration the significance of the region.

The governors stated they understand the need for energy development but that drilling should not threaten “our ancestral graveyards, sacred sites or water sources.”

The resolution comes as the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Indian Affairs hold the last of several public hearings Friday on the Navajo Nation as part of an expanded review of management in the area that was sparked by oil and gas development concerns.

Some Navajos have been outspoken about development in the San Juan Basin, one of the largest natural gas fields in the nation. They have attended the public meetings, armed with signs that state “No leases, no pipelines, no drilling.”

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NM needs a path to 100 percent renewable energy

By Kendra Pinto / Twin Pines Community Member, and Javier Benavidez / Senior Policy Advocate, New Energy Economy

New Mexico and the Navajo Nation are sacred places in which to grow up. From an early age we develop a special reverence for Mother Nature and Father Sky, particularly because we are raised in the shadows of magnificent landscapes like Shiprock and the Sandias, also known as Turtle Mountain. From early on, New Mexicans develop a deep-down affinity for this land’s average of 350 radiant days of sunshine and the winds that sweep our vast open plains and mesas.

On the flipside, New Mexico also has a long and painful history of environmental injustice. The devastating impacts of extractive industries have been borne by our families over many generations – from those in Silver City who developed black lung from their work in the mines, to loved ones in Church Rock overcome by cancer from toxic uranium spills, to children struggling to breathe in the Four Corners where air quality is among the worst in the nation. The people of Sandoval County are fighting to protect their groundwater from fracking contamination and, in Carlsbad, residents live under the constant threat of radiation from WIPP. Just last summer, an oilfield operated by WPX Energy exploded near our homes in Nageezi, forcing 55 of our neighbors to evacuate and traumatizing our entire community.

We have been told for too long that we must sacrifice our health and that of our lands in order to serve the economy.

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New Mexico Public Regulatory Commission in Retrograde

In the airless fourth floor hearing room where the body charged with regulating public utilities operating in New Mexico meets to conduct its public business, special rules apply: the Sun revolves around the Earth, which is flat by the way, and utility companies being in the electricity generation business is a really good idea.

In recent weeks, the state’s largest utility, Public Service Co. of New Mexico (PNM), was before the New Mexico Public Regulatory Commission (PRC) seeking approval of its its Renewable Energy Act Plan for 2018. At special issue was the utility’s proposal for a turnkey contract with an Albuquerque-based solar provider, a company already in the constellation of solar providers in PNM’s renewable energy universe.

In the proposed deal, Affordable Solar would build out five 10 megawatt generating facilities for completion in 2019, and transfer ownership back to PNM. Under current law, owning the facilities outright, as opposed to purchasing output from independent providers, guarantees PNM a 10% profit on the value of the solar farms, including the value of the land they’re built on, which it can include in its rate base calculation. Growing the asset base upon which rates are determined is a surefire way that investor-based for-profit utilities like PNM, whose shares are traded on the New York Stock Exchange, can grow future profits and remain attractive in the capital markets.

Opponents to the deal, who notably include the PRC staff and Hearing Examiner, say that PNM ran roughshod over the procurement process, effectively shutting out independent power producers in order to achieve a predetermined result, and that if the deal is allowed to go forward ratepayers will be disadvantaged to the benefit of PNM’s shareholders.

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NEE files Motion to Reconsider for Renewable Portfolio Standard given PRC's violation of the law

As you know New Energy Economy prevailed before PRC Hearing Examiner Carolyn Glick against PNM when PNM sought to own 50 MW solar (built by Affordable Solar).  She found PNM’s procurement process was rigged and called it anti-competitive and unfair. PNM wants to own ALL the solar because that way it makes money on the electricity it sells us and a nearly 10% return on the solar assets AND the land the solar sits on. This can’t be the least cost alternative as PNM claims.

After the Commission led by Sandy Jones ruled (3-2, Espinoza and Lyons in the minority) to overturn Carolyn Glick’s recommendation regarding PNM-owned solar New Energy Economy filed a Motion to Reconsider. We argued that the PRC majority ignored and distorted substantial evidence in the record. Evidence which led the Hearing Examiner to reject PNM-owned solar due to its unreasonably high solar procurement costs to PNM’s customers.

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