PNM: Electric bills to rise about 7 percent

The Public Service Company of New Mexico said Thursday that electric bills in the state will increase by an average of 7 percent, or about $6.89 per month, following state regulators’ decision earlier this week on the utility’s request for a rate hike.

The new rates are expected to take effect Saturday and will cost PNM’s northern customers, including those in Santa Fe, an average of about $80 more per household annually. In the southern part of the state, customers will see a much smaller increase, an estimated $1.26 per month, which the company says is because of a “gradual integration” of the rate increase there.

The five-member state Public Regulation Commission voted 3-2 Wednesday to allow the electric utility to raise rates as much as 9 percent to partially compensate for its recent energy investments.

The company had originally sought a 15.8 percent increase on utility bills, or a $123.5 million total reimbursement for its investments in power at the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station in Arizona and pollution control measures at the San Juan Generating Station near Farmington. PNM said the rate hike was necessary to prevent job losses and keep the company’s stock prices from plummeting.

The PRC reduced the rate increase in part because commissioners excluded the pollution control measures at the coal-fired San Juan plant from the new rate base.

But the final decision on the yearlong rate case was more generous than a recommendation made in August by PRC hearing officer Carolyn Glick. After evaluating weeks of testimony, Glick said the company had failed to prove some of its power purchases were prudent and recommended just a 6 percent rate increase.

Still, PNM said it will appeal the commission’s decision and introduce another rate request before the year’s end.

Renewable energy advocacy group New Energy Economy, which has opposed PNM on several fronts in the past year, also announced it would appeal Wednesday’s decision, saying there was no “factual, legal or moral basis” for the rate increase that the commission approved.

Contact Rebecca Moss at 505-986-3011 or rmoss@sfnewmexican.com.

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