Letters to the Editor, February 13 - Albuquerque Journal

I am amazed to see the misleading glossy mailer Public Service Company of New Mexico sent out all over Santa Fe.

The company’s expensive poll on municipalization come on the heels of the news that PNM says it is strapped and must increase residents’ rates by 12 percent. As a captive customer of PNM, I want it to provide community solar.

Working together with the city, PNM could finance and integrate into its grid a large solar installation at the old dump site in Northwest Santa Fe.

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California Energy Markets - Lawyers Disagree on Legality of Municipal Electric Utility

CALIFORNIA ENERGY MARKETS ‹ January 16, 2015 ‹ No. 1317 ‹ Page 10


[16] Lawyers Disagree on Legality of
Municipal Electric Utility (from [6])

Procedural delays and legal questions are bogging down efforts to establish a municipal electric utility for the city of Santa Fe, N.M., and possibly for all of Santa Fe County.

The Santa Fe City Council on Jan. 14 postponed consideration of a resolution to organize a meeting with the city’s Board of Commissioners on creating a jointly owned electric utility.

Santa Fe City Councilor Carmichael Dominguez persuaded the council majority to send the resolution back to the Council Finance Committee to consider changes that reflected suggestions made earlier by the committee.

Councilmembers Joseph Maestas, Peter Ives and Chris Rivera, who introduced the resolution, opposed the delay.

However, Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales said the Finance Committee may recommend the resolution in time for City Council review of the resolution on Jan. 28.

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Council postpones action on city-owned utility

Posted: Wednesday, January 14, 2015 9:00 pm | Updated: 12:05 am, Thu Jan 15, 2015.

The City Council on Wednesday postponed action on a resolution that calls for the city to explore with Santa Fe County the possibility of a jointly owned public electric utility.

The council voted 5-3 to send the resolution back to the city Finance Committee, which next meets Jan. 20, and for the council to reconsider the matter as early as Jan. 28.

Mayor Javier Gonzales and Councilors Patti Bushee, Carmichael Dominguez, Signe Lindell and Ron Trujillo voted in support of the delay. Councilor Joseph Maestas, who sponsored the resolution, and co-sponsors Peter Ives and Chris Rivera, voted in opposition. City Councilor Bill Dimas was absent but has previously stated that the city has more pressing issues than creating its own electric utility.
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How PNM rewrote Santa Fe’s clean energy resolution to support dirty coal [Read the Internal Emails]

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Bushee nixes call for PNM agreement from energy resolution

Power Independence for Santa Fe?

Santa Fe Reporter

- See more at: http://www.sfreporter.com/santafe/article-9644-naughty-or-nice.html

Will Santa Fe be the next city to municipalize its electric utility?

By  | November 25, 2014 

A petition backing efforts to form a municipal utility in Santa Fe, N.M., has almost 1,000 signatures and support from City Councilors in advance of city council meeting next month that could open debate on the issue.

Proponents of the city forming its own electric utility say they want cleaner power than incumbent Public Service Co. of New Mexico (PNM) is currently providing. PNM has pointed to its plan to boost renewables and slash coal use by almost a third, while also warning it is easy to underestimate the costs of maintaining reliable power.

Santa Fe City Councilor Peter Ives has drafted an ordinance to establish Santa Fe Public Power (SFPP), noting that citizens “seek electric energy supplied in a reliable, fiscally sound, and environmentally responsible manner.” That measure could be debated at a city council meeting scheduled for December.

Earlier this month Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales announced the city would push to form its own electric utility while speaking at a Climate Action Summit. He announced a slate of other energy efficiency measures as well, including the city administering its own solar program.

“I am deeply committed to the idea that we can and must make sure that Santa Feans have access to affordable, renewable energy," Gonzales said.

In some ways, the story resembles the city of Minneapolis’ efforts to source power cleaner. There, green energy backers used franchise negotiations with CenterPoint Energy and Xcel Energy, along with the threat of municipalization, to urge the two incumbent utilities to participate on a board assisting the city in meeting its carbon goals.

John Farrell, director of Democratic Energy at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, led a group called Minneapolis Energy Options that was closely involved in the green energy push in that city. But in Minneapolis the threat of municipalization was mostly that—a threat, and potentially a model for how cities can prod traditional utilities to provide greener power.

But Santa Fe, said Farrell, appears "a little bit more determined on the actual push towards municipalization."

"They actually raised the money to do a study, to show both the costs and from a  clean energy standpoint what they thought a municipal utility could deliver in comparison to the incumbent utility," Farrell said. They're "pushing for a particular solution."

Ives, who authored the proposed ordinance, did not return requests for comment.

PNM issued a statement saying the utility “is focused on serving our Santa Fe customers, and we are working with the City of Santa Fe to explore options for community solar and other green energy projects. It would be premature to comment on anything that may or may not happen going forward.”

The proposal

The agenda for a Dec. 10 Santa Fe City Council meeting has not been published, but Ive's proposal could be introduced then. The measure calls for Santa Fe Public Power to be “efficiently delivering affordable and reliable energy, operating in a transparent and fiscally responsible manner, generating local economic development, using cleaner energy establishing ratepayer equity and operating under principles of responsible environmental stewardship.”

Interest in Santa Fe municipalization began to pick up steam two years ago, when a feasibility assessment completed by MSA Capital Partners found Santa Fe Public Power could get off the ground for $155 million, a figure which included high-end estimates for replacing or acquiring PNM’s distribution network. Start-up and acquisition costs would be financed through a combination of taxable and tax-exempt bond issues, the report concluded.

The research looked at two muni scenarios. In the first case, SFPP buys buys wholesale power and implements more aggressive energy efficiency measures to grow customer-scale solar to 11.25% of total electric energy generation.

Under a purchased power/self-generation scenario, the new muni would buy wholesale power for the first seven years and then build generation facilities for locally-sited natural gas and utility-scale solar. Renewables would initially make up 30% of the utility’s generation, expanding to 45% over 20 years.

“The public utility would support the growth of this local market with incentives, averaging 14 cents per kWh. Energy efficiency programs also provide significant job creation,” the report found. The plan calls for building and operating a locally-sited natural gas combined cycle power plant and 60 MW of utility-scale solar capacity, resulting in locally-sourced power making up 84% of total generation.

Support and opposition

A MoveOn.org petition targeting 1,000 signatures currently has over 900 people in support. The petition says Santa Fe “should be doing more to shift to renewable energy and take advantage of the enormous potential and local economic benefits of solar.”

But the utility says it is doing more to provide greener power, and last monthfiled a plan with state regulators to retire two units at the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station.

The power from those units would be replaced by nuclear generation from the Palo Verde Nuclear Generation Station Unit 3 and by adding 132 MW of additional capacity from San Juan Unit 4. The plan was filed with the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission in the form of a settlement signed by regulatory staff, the state’s attorney general, the Renewable Energy Industries Association of New Mexico, the New Mexico Independent Power Producers and Western Resource Advocates.

In other filings, PNM said, it is proposing additional replacement power from natural gas and solar generation. The plan would result in an increase of approximately 7% to the average customer's bill, or about $5.25 per month.

Advocates of municipalization say the city can provide power cleaner as well as cheaper. The feasibility report found bills could be up to 30% cheaper within about 10 years of forming a public utility. “The primary reasons for this are: more aggressive implementation of energy efficiency measures, reduced cost of capital (no need to generate a profit and lower borrowing costs), and reduced administrative expense (lower executive compensation).”

PNM fires back

In a column published in both the Albuquerque Journal and Santa Fe New Mexican, PNM director of community, environment and local government Amy Miller urged the city to consider all of the costs related to forming a public uility. And she stressed the utility’s plan for the San Juan station will result in more green power.

“Opponents don’t mention that part of PNM’s San Juan plan includes adding more solar generation on top of the significant increase the company is already making, and more natural gas, both of which will create local construction jobs,” Miller wrote. “Or that we will significantly increase the wind energy on our system starting in January, and that early this year we began providing clean energy from the state’s first geothermal generation facility.”

By the end of next year, PNM intends to have spent almost $300 million on solar energy and will source its power from enough renewable resources to power 150,000 homes.

“Our customers, including the city of Santa Fe, have responded enthusiastically. Since 2007, customers have saved more than 1 billion kilowatt hours of electricity and received more than $34 million in rebates," Miller said.

The column also notes that PNM has been no slouch in supporting Santa Fe, both in terms of employment and revenue. The company paid more than $5 million in taxes last year to the city and county, spent $3.4 million supporting local business and invested more than $8 million in infrastructure and reliability projects in the area.


SF forum debates publicly owned utility

October 2013

SANTA FE – Cash, public interest and, perhaps most importantly, political will – all will be needed as Santa Fe city and county continue to explore the possibility of a publicly owned electric utility, speakers at a recent forum on the subject said.

Former Santa Fe County Commissioner Paul Campos declared that Santa Fe “cannot sit back any longer and say, ‘Let’s let the big utilities make their decisions.’”

“They’ve made their decisions and I think now is the time to consider changes,” Campos said.

Campos was among the speakers at the discussion, held at the Scottish Rite Temple and hosted by the League of Women Voters of Santa Fe County, the Sierra Club and New Energy Economy.


Continue Reading at the Albuquerque Journal website »

Forum to explore municipal utility for Santa Fe

September 2013

A former Texas public utilities commissioner is the latest to suggest that Santa Fe might benefit from establishing its own electric utility instead of relying on Public Service Company of New Mexico.

Karl Rábago says investor-owned power companies got started a century ago because it was thought that electricity was best generated from large centralized coal plants and distributed through guaranteed monopolies.

Now that relatively small natural gas-fired turbines are generating more electricity, with solar and wind sources coming on line, and smart grids, hyper-energy-efficient buildings and electric-powered vehicles on the horizon, that model is outmoded, he said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

“Add in climate change, acid rain, water scarcity and all the other things that also append to the central station power plant model and communities like Santa Fe and other places are saying, ‘Hey, I want my utilities to do more for me,’ ” he said.

Rábago, a former vice president for Austin Power, the Texas capital city’s municipally owned electric utility, will be one of three speakers at a public forum Wednesday, Sept. 18, to explore whether Santa Fe should acquire its own power system.


Continue Reading at the Santa Fe New Mexican website »

Reader View: We can build a better energy future

June 2013

Reader View: We can build a better energy future

Posted: Saturday, June 15, 2013 11:00 pm | Updated: 12:37 am, Sun Jun 16, 2013.

By Shane Woolbright | 0 comments

At the March 13 Santa Fe City Council meeting, the first business item was to hear a report on establishment of a public power system for Santa Fe. Public power refers to electricity distribution or generation owned by the consumers. Currently, our power is provided by Public Service Co. of New Mexico, 80 percent of which comes from coal and nuclear, with adverse impacts to the economy, our health and our environment. The preliminary economic feasibility showed that a Santa Fe public power utility could provide leading-edge innovations in energy efficiency, renewable energy and related economic development, while stabilizing rates.

The report was two years in the making and the result of a desire by many in Santa Fe to have a cleaner, less expensive electric energy supply. Its commission was an act of vision. To implement it will be an act of courage. Santa Fe has taken on a leadership role before. Now is the time to actualize longstanding community values to bring brighter long-term possibilities for our health, prosperity and sustainability.

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