By Robert Walton | April 21, 2015
A hearing examiner has recommended state regulators reject a 12% rate increase proposed by Public Service Co. of New Mexico (PNM), finding that the utility did not sufficiently justify its request.
Opponents of the utility's plan said PNM offered little explanation about the costs it expected to incur in the future, and also urged regulators to reject a plan to add a monthly fee to residents with solar panels.
The hearing examiner was assigned by state regulators to review the PNM proposal and recommend a course of action. A final decision will come from the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission. PNM says it will appeal the hearing examiner's assessment, according to KUNM radio, and has two weeks to do so.
Opponents of PNM's proposed $100 million rate hike and increase in solar fees scored a significant victory last week when Hearing Examiner Carolyn Glick rejected the utility's proposal as incomplete. Opponents had said the utility did not fully explain why it needed the 12% rate increase, and Glick agreed.
According to a statement posted to the Facebook page of New Energy Economy, a group which opposed the plan, Glick's decision said "the modeling cannot be a black box: the assumption applied and inputs used must be disclosed to staff and intervenors so that they can determine the validity of the outputs. PNM has not explained, supported and justified the cost estimates as required by the rule."
Company spokesman Pahl Shipley told The Republic that PNM disagreed with the decision and would make its case before the commission.
New Energy Economy, which had intervened in the case, celebrated the decision. “PNM is required under the law to provide a transparent basis for its figures to legitimate its rate hikes," Executive Director Mariel Nanasi said in a statement. "PNM’s $100 million rate increase as filed skirts the law and the public deserves full disclosure and that’s what the hearing examiner has ruled."
PNM's proposal would have also tacked on fees to residents with home solar systems. The fees, which would range from $21 to $36 each month, depending on the size of the system, also caught the attention of New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas (D), who announced last week that he opposed the fee hike.
Earlier this month, a separate hearing examinerrecommended state regulator reject a PNM plan to shut down half of its generation at the San Juan coal-fired power plant. The utility said in a Monday filing with regulators that rejecting the plan could jeopardize the operation of the entire San Juan facility and end up costing ratepayers more.