Public Service Company of New Mexico announced Tuesday that its plan for operating the San Juan Generating Station after it shuts down two of four units at the coal-fired power plant will be in place by Aug. 1. Critics of the state’s largest utility company continued to say, however, that its proposal for replacing the coal power from those two units is ill-conceived.
PNM said Westmoreland Coal Co.’s board of directors this week approved the purchase of the San Juan Mine, and it would supply coal to the San Juan Generating Station if the state Public Regulation Commission approves that plan.
“Our agreement with PNM will help serve New Mexico customers with reliable energy at very economical rates,” said a news release from PNM that quoted Keith E. Alessi, CEO of the Colorado-based Westmoreland. “In addition, it will ensure the continued operation of the mine, which provides hundreds of high-wage jobs and is a key driver of the Four Corners’ economy,” the area where the generating station is located.
PNM said in a statement that it will have agreements with all of the owners of the San Juan plant signed by Aug. 1. This would clear state regulators to approve the utility’s plan to operate the plant. Previously, PNM had said that one of the new San Juan owners, the city of Anaheim, Calif., might need until Aug. 6 to get its ownership papers approved by its city council.
The Public Regulation Commission meets Wednesday to vote on PNM’s request to extend the date for a final vote on its plans until Aug. 1.
“Everything is in place to deliver the final, fully executed agreements by Aug. 1 if the commission permits us the additional time,” said a statement Tuesday by Pat Vincent-Collawn, PNM chairman, president and chief executive officer. “The record we established during the January hearing clearly shows that the PNM plan is the most cost effective and provides significant environmental benefits. The new coal agreement makes the plan ever more cost effective for our customers.”
Those who oppose the coal-burning proposal say PNM’s plans are not the most cost-effective.
Mariel Nanasi, executive director of New Energy Economy — which has formally intervened in the case — reiterated her opposition to coal power.
“The evidence at the hearing proves that there are four energy alternative plans that are healthier, safer, cheaper and less risky than PNM’s coal and nuclear proposal,” she said. “PNM has testified that they are losing money on both their coal and nuclear investments. Why would the PRC allow PNM to shift the losses from their toxic assets to New Mexican consumers for the next 30 years?”
PNM plans to close two coal-burning units at the San Juan station in 2017. But the company is requesting to increase the coal-burning capacity in the remaining units to help make up for the lost power from the two closed units.
The utility also proposes adding a natural-gas-fueled plant, nuclear power from the Palo Verde plant in Arizona and some solar power.