ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission is expected to issue a decision soon on a long-running PNM rate case. The ruling will affect how much more the state’s 500,000 customers will pay for electricity, but could influence where that power comes from.
The pocketbook impact isn’t the only consideration, says Mariel Manasi, executive director of the advocacy group New Energy Economy, which intervened in the case. Her organization takes issue with PNM for spending millions – and planning to spend hundreds of millions more – on retrofitting old coal plants while utilities in other states are phasing coal out because of coming environmental regulations and an unfavorable outlook on Wall Street.
“PNM is choosing to spend good money after bad, and that’s our money. We want them to invest in New Mexico. We want less pollution and more clean-energy jobs. And this is being done by all of our neighbors.”
Some investment will be made in clean energy, according to PNM’s website, but the utility states that coal is enough to supply state demand – although the utility also notes that state demand has set new records in the past year.
New Mexico has been left behind on renewable-energy production, says Manasi, noting that the state ranks second in solar-power potential but has no large-scale solar production as is found in Arizona and Colorado.
“We want to transition and really open up New Mexico for business in the clean-energy economy, which will create badly needed jobs.”
There are other implications, too. Nanasi says New Mexicans’ health is suffering because of coal-fired production – seen in rising asthma rates and warnings about mercury contamination in rivers. It also can’t be ignored that the state is enduring a drought, she says.
“They use 9.3 billion gallons of clean water every single year on their coal plants, so this is an extremely important time for us to invest in clean energy.”