By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN - Associated Press - Friday, January 2, 2015
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission is preparing to take up what some energy experts have called a watershed utility case that could set the stage for energy policy in the state for decades to come.
The commission on Monday will begin a two-week hearing on a proposal that calls for closing part of the San Juan Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant that serves more than 2 million customers in the Southwest.
The terms of the proposal were negotiated in 2013. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the state attorney general’s office, the New Mexico Renewable Industries Association and others have already signed off, but the agreement still requires commission approval.
The proposal is aimed at balancing the need to cut haze-causing pollution with keeping rates reasonable for customers.
PNM has proposed doing that by shutting down two units at the power plant and replacing the lost power with a mix of coal from one of the plant’s other units, electricity generated by the Palo Verde nuclear plant in Arizona, a new natural gas-fired plant and more solar generating stations.
PNM’s regulatory filings estimate the cost over 20 years at more than $6.8 billion. The utility says its plan represents the most cost-effective alternative for dealing with federal environmental mandates that call for reducing emissions at San Juan.