Yesterday New Energy Economy filed our brief opposing the IOU's bid to once again delay Community Solar at the NM Supreme Court. PNM, SPS and EPE obstructed Community Solar in the legislature for eight years, they successfully limited the program using unfriendly amendments, fought throughout the rule-making process, appealed the final rules at the PRC, and now they are asking for a stay of the implementation of the rules at the Supreme Court. In their Motion for Stay SPS (on behalf of all the IOUs) claims to oppose Community Solar because they care about ratepayers, stating that the rules “improperly allow for costs attributable to community solar projects to be borne by non-subscribers,” but the truth is they can’t stand the competition. Their argument is code for: solar is eating at our profits!
We fought for nearly a decade to pass Community Solar legislation, and in 2021 that effort was finally rewarded at the legislature with the passage of a limited bill that capped Community Solar at 200MW, among other compromises. Still, it was good enough to get the program going. After its passage there are more than 7800 applications for solar interconnection in the pipeline - more than 500MW.
During the rulemaking process information provided by SPS revealed there was a surge of interconnection applications after the Community Solar Act became law.
We know that the IOU’s don’t care about ratepayers. PNM’s profits during COVID were about $150 million per year – they gleefully collected that money from the poorest New Mexican families to line their pockets. But it's not just during COVID. They feed on the destruction of the Earth and the misery of the poor. The reason they haven't moved to 100% renewables is because they haven't figured out how they can continue their fist over fist profiteering on solar and wind because renewable energy is so cheap.
Under the antiquated monopoly system utilities make more money when the BIG nuclear, coal and gas plants continue, because those behemoths cost more money to build, run and maintain, and they can charge ratepayers a premium on all those capital expenditures, a 9.57% premium, which they send directly to the bank accounts of their Wall St. shareholders. Solar and wind are proven technologies that are cheap to build and provide an almost inexhaustible source of free energy once constructed.
The IOU's are fighting tooth and nail because Community Solar represents a small crack in their monopoly control over energy decisions and profits.
Whether it’s competitive procurement requirements for resource portfolios, rooftop solar, or energy efficiency - these privately owned companies have been slow-walking the energy transition we need for decades. Their latest Motion to Stay is just another example of their continued sabotage of the change we need. We look to the court to uphold the will of the people and the legislature, especially given that the law itself contains a review period after which adjustments can be made. The utilities claim irreparable harm, but the real harm would be for the Supreme Court to grant the Stay and not give low income communities a chance for equity and a just transition.
New Mexico leadership must find the courage to confront the antiquated monopoly system that is holding us back. We must put public wellbeing at the center of energy policy through public ownership of energy infrastructure. The New Mexico legislature gave the IOU’s a monopoly and they have the power to break it up, opening the floodgates to the clean solar, wind and battery storage that we need.
Local Choice Energy legislation would give local communities the option to compete in the generation sector - to build and/or purchase electricity while still utilizing transmission and distribution service from their existing utility company and repurpose the money back into community, not export it to the 1%. Local Choice Energy is Local Wealth Generation. The time for change is now!