Reader View: Turn challenge into opportunity — switch to renewable energy

I am a local actor, playwright and film curator who is concerned about the future of my community and the world at large. In December 2015, the Public Regulation Commission approved the Public Service Company of New Mexico’s request for more coal and nuclear. Fortunately, New Energy Economy is appealing that unsupported decision in the New Mexico Supreme Court. PNM has doubled down and invested in even more coal and more nuclear in this pending rate case.

If the PRC approves the rate case, PNM’s energy portfolio will be 80 percent coal and nuclear. The whole world is moving away from coal, and we are learning of nuclear plant closings in Illinois and California — with more on the way — because nuclear just can’t compete against low-cost renewables and gas. Many cities in the U.S. and many countries in the world are working toward 100 percent renewable energy. Since Santa Fe is a worldwide tourist destination, shouldn’t we join the global movement to become independent from coal and nuclear while also supporting our international tourism industry?

Local and regional governments are proving that 100 percent renewable energy in conjunction with energy efficiency and conservation is technically doable. It means more reliable and secure energy systems, more clean jobs, health benefits and financial savings. Renewable energy has grown rapidly in terms of investment, deployment, but it’s not fast enough. To prevent 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming, we need to get to 100 percent renewable energy and phase out all fossil fuels by 2050. That means decisive action now.

Los Angeles spent $57 million to retrofit its traditional streetlights with LED bulbs. That will result in savings of $9 million a year in electricity charges and will slash CO2 emissions by 60,000 metric tons — the electricity savings equivalent for about 8,860 homes. That’s a good return on investment. Why can’t we do that here you may wonder? PNM.

Not only is PNM committed to using coal and nuclear for the long haul rather than than solar and wind, it has consistently opposed the attempt by the cities of Santa Fe and Albuquerque to replace streetlights with LEDs. In fact, that’s another issue in this rate case. PNM’s formula is to rely on obsolete climate-altering and radioactive fuels, constantly raise our rates, and prevent municipalities from exercising the most energy efficient and technologically appropriate modernization efforts.

Why is PNM doing this? Because it can and, thus far, the PRC has let it get away with it. But we have to work around this barrier to change.

Let’s use the city of Santa Fe’s Verde funds to make solar available to low-income households who make the largest reductions in their electricity bill. This will eliminate participants’ electricity bills and shrink our carbon footprint. Let’s solarize not just 25 percent of the city’s buildings — move to 100 percent, aggressively. There should be a city and county ordinance that requires that every new home be outfitted with solar — it has been done successfully elsewhere. Let’s create jobs here. It would demonstrate global leadership in our commitment to clean energy and protect ratepayers from the increasing costs of PNM’s carbon-based fuels.

I strongly support the resolution pending before the city of Santa Fe that opposes more coal and nuclear in PNM’s rate case. Let’s go the next step and become a municipal utility, and begin to produce renewable energy for our residents.

Organizations like are connecting renewable energy advocates worldwide to build a global 100 percent renewable energy alliance, proving that being powered by 100 percent renewable energy is achievable. Let’s build awareness that a 100 percent-renewable-energy pathway is feasible and beneficial not only for ourselves, but for our grandchildren.

Posted: Saturday, August 20, 2016 7:00 pm

By Aaron Leventman

Aaron Leventman is an actor and playwright who lives in Santa Fe and curates for film festivals in addition to working in the real estate business.

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