Lessons learned in the 2022 legislative session, and what comes next


The 2022 legislative session resulted in one, and only one, positive climate victory. The Community Energy Efficiency Development Block Grant Act, or CEED Act, will improve energy efficiency and make energy more affordable for low-income New Mexicans. We applaud Senator Kristina Ortez for her leadership in sponsoring the CEED act and hope the Governor will sign the bill expeditiously. The 36% rate cap for payday loans was a long overdue economic justice victory as well.

The legislative session as a whole, however, was once again a terrible disappointment. False solutions like Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), carbon credit markets and hydrogen sucked all the oxygen out of the room. Every environmental group in the state was forced to play defense as industry refused to take NO for an answer, repeatedly pushing the lie that market based solutions are the only possible option. United we were successful in preventing the worst, but we ended the session essentially exactly where we were when we began.

The Clean Future Act and the Clean Fuel Standards Act set positive goals but included fatal flaws, attempting to enshrine carbon credit markets and CCS into New Mexico law for the benefit of the oil and gas industry, and in the case of the Clean Fuel Standards Act, got amended at the last moment to give carte blanche to PNM executives to invest in coal and natural gas without any regulation.

Even these flawed climate bills failed to pass, not because they were flawed, but because in the end oil and gas industry scare mongering successfully prevented ANY significant climate action from taking place. A memorial just to study a Public Power alternative did not even receive a hearing.

Another precious year wasted. Another unforgivable failure by the leaders in our state to put life and the wellbeing of the New Mexico people before profits.

IS THERE HOPE?

Yes, there is hope. There must be hope, for without hope action becomes impossible and fear overwhelms, allowing corporate greed to prevail at every critical opportunity for change. We must recognize that the impetus for change does not lie with Governors and legislators, but with the people and with forces beyond any individual's control. Change will take place because clean energy exists and is in fact cheaper than fossil fuel energy. Change will take place because the earth continues to give clear warning about the dangers of business as usual, and will continue to speak louder and louder. Change will take place because the survival instinct is stronger than capitalism. Change will take place because human beings love their children.

Change is inevitable, it is only a question of when, of who will pay, and of how much of what is precious can be saved.

WHAT COMES NEXT?

New Energy Economy proceeds with the knowledge that we are not alone. There are people and organizations of good faith who stand with us across the state to fight for energy democracy and climate justice, and we continue to work with them to advance Public Power as an alternative to the corporate capture of our state economy and our energy system.

Our focus over the next year will be to go on the offense - to build a coalition in support of Public Power, to work with legislators to develop thoughtful climate legislation that can receive broad support from people throughout the state, and to continue the fight to protect ratepayers from bearing the cost burden of the energy transition.

NEE INTERVENED IN THE JEMEZ ELECTRIC CO-OP RATE CASE TO PROTECT MEMBERS FROM UNJUST RATE INCREASES AND PREVENT THE ATTEMPT TO DISCOURAGE AND PENALIZE ENERGY EFFICIENCY AND ROOFTOP SOLAR ADOPTION


New Energy Economy, with the support of Hispano Round Table de Nuevo México, Honor Our Pueblo Existence (HOPE), Indigenous Life Ways, Inc., Tewa Women United and Rio Arriba Concerned Citizens has filed to intervene at the PRC on behalf of a group of Jemez Mountain Electric Co-operative (JMEC) members.

In December JMEC filed for a rate increase based on a Cost of Service analysis using 2019 as its base year. In January more than 100 co-op members filed a protest against the proposed increase, citing the regressive nature of the proposed rates that will unfairly penalize lower and fixed income co-op members, particularly the 92.86% increase ($14 to $27) to the fixed facility charge paid by all members and the higher rate increases for low electricity users.

In JMEC’s response to the member’s protest, the co-op admitted that its purpose in proposing this regressive rate structure, rather than a simple kWh rate increase, is to discourage energy efficiency and rooftop solar adoption, stating that the increase to the fixed facility charge was chosen because:

“a substantial increase to the kWh rate will likely prompt members to curtail their overall energy use. Alternatively, such an increase may motivate other members to invest in and utilize renewable power equipment to supplement or entirely replace their dependence on JMEC as their sole source of electrical power.”

Our goals in intervening include:

  • reduce the rate increase substantially (especially by protecting low-income and fixed-income members, including disabled and senior members);

  • ensure that rates do not penalize energy efficiency and solar energy adoption;

  • erect guardrails to ensure transparency and accountability on the JMEC Board;

  • institutionalize meaningful consultation with the Pueblos;

  • analyze the costs and benefits of JMEC’s contract for energy with Tri-State Generation and determine if co-op members might be better off with low cost solar, wind and battery storage feasible alternatives that will reduce rates and decrease climate altering emissions.

NEE OPPOSES PNM'S EFFORTS TO CREATE A FOG OF FEAR AND UNCERTAINTY AROUND ENERGY SUPPLY IN ORDER TO SUSPEND RULES AND PROLONG THE LIFE OF COAL AND GAS POWER IN NM

If you watched hearings at the legislative session or read New Mexico newspapers recently, you are likely to have heard the incessant drumbeat of fear about impending blackouts and brownouts this summer when the San Juan Generating Station is slated to close. Why is PNM beating this drum? And why now? PNM has known that San Juan would close for five years, and filed notice at the PRC two years ago that there was the potential for an issue with electricity supply upon closure of the plant.

So why are we all of a sudden hearing about this issue now? And why are we getting the five alarm fire message while at the same time PNM's CEO is telling investors that "we are fortunate that we are going to be able to cover [our SJGS replacement power needs]"?

The truth is that PNM is using this fear-mongering tactic to argue that the rules should be suspended - San Juan should continue operating another three months without any alternative analysis - and likely also to cast doubt on the abilities of the PRC in the lead up to PNM's appeal of both the Avangrid merger and the Four Corners Abandonment rulings pending at the Supreme Court.

The truth is that it is unclear if this is actually an emergency - PNM MAY not be able to generate the preferred level of reserve margin - POTENTIALLY but not necessarily leading to a shortage. Secondly, they created this situation by failing to act in a timely manner when they knew it could be an issue for at least five years.

PNM's CEO told investors that she has an 11x17 piece of paper listing all the potential solutions to the problem. Today NEE filed a request for expedited discovery and briefing to ensure that all potential solutions have been adequately explored, and to ensure that ratepayers and the environment do not pay the price for PNM's imprudence and mismanagement.

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