***UPDATE OCTOBER 31, 2018***
#BREAKING - #PRC grants @NewEnergyNM motion to dismiss El Paso Electric expensive solar project. EPE must return to drawing board & develop most cost effective program. Three Women Commissioners Lovejoy, Espinoza, Hall vote for the people to have truly accessible #Solar #NMPOL
#NMPRC Comm Sandy Jones & Patrick Lyons used banner of "low-income", attempt and #fail to justify illegal, expensive #solar project. Women commissioners voted to protect consumers from EPE's overreaching proposal that discriminated against lower-cost competitors #NMLEG #NMPOL
October 26, 2018
New Energy Economy Moves to Dismiss Unaffordable Solar Proposal Before PRC
Commission denies motion, doubles-down with bizarre maneuver: creates an illegal path to force through needlessly expensive solar project that even El Paso Electric wanted to abandon
October 26, 2018 - The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (PRC) voted during their Wednesday meeting that El Paso Electric (EPE) must reissue a “new open-bid” request for proposals to build a 2-megawatt community solar project. Promoted as a program to help lower-income New Mexicans gain access to clean solar electricity, the program charges customers a 42% higher rate for the electricity than a similar project in New Mexico.
By ordering EPE to reissue the bid, the PRC, by implication, acknowledges the high cost of EPE’s solar and rejects their prior solar project.
“Despite the claim that this program will help low-income customers, it is not true. Customers will pay an EPE premium,” said David Van Winkle, President, New Energy Economy Executive Board.
The PRC vote comes after New Energy Economy filed an October 16, 2018 motion to dismiss the unfair proposal outright and begin from scratch to propose a project that is truly affordable for New Mexico ratepayers.
New Energy Economy uncovered substantial evidence that EPE made it’s selection without considering the most cost-effective options that could make the program truly affordable to low-income New Mexicans. EPE’s proposal would result in customers paying $78 per megawatt-hour, while a similarly sized solar array proposed also this year by Southwestern Public Service, with an independent power producer, has a cost of $45 per megawatt-hour.
It is New Mexico Law that utilities must prove their resource acquisitions are the most cost-effective among feasible alternatives for ratepayers.
The PRC vote and order demanding El Paso Electric reissue an RFP ahead of the November 27th hearing they have called, was also illegal. By attempting to ram the project through before the new year, outgoing Commission Chairman Sandy Jones is illegally limiting the timeframe for the public to evaluate and weigh in on the proposals that will be submitted.
Commissioners Jones, Lyons, and Lovejoy used charged language during recent public hearings. Commissioner Jones repeatedly expressing how “it made him feel nauseous” that a program to “help poor people” could be derailed. On Wednesday, he also stated he supports “not having the hearings at all, and just approving the program.”
It is beyond alarming that a New Mexico PRC Commissioner would prejudge and seemingly pre-approve EPE’s expensive solar program without hearing the merits. Especially when the truth is that the program, as proposed, is unaffordable for working New Mexicans and designed, first and foremost, to maximize profits for EPE investors. The truth, which EPE admitted, is that EPE did not allow any competition to take place between their in-house bid and independent power producers who might have been prepared to deliver the solar power more inexpensively.
Why the higher cost? Shareholder owned utilities, like Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) and El Paso Electric have a duty to maximize profits for shareholders, in the form of dividends. By owning big electricity generation projects (capital assets), PNM and EPE increase profits by passing on costs of building and maintaining (and depreciating) all those huge assets to you and me - in the form of rate increases.
EPE’s request for proposals (RFP) process only invited and considered proposals for a 2MW resource that would be owned by EPE and located on EPE land, inflating the costs to customers.
At New Energy Economy, we’ve done the math. It is less expensive for ratepayers when PNM and EPE purchase electricity from independent companies instead of owning the facilities. This can mean a more competitive renewable energy market focused on cost-savings for customers rather than profit and dividends for the Wall Street investors.
Solar Energy is booming, and for the sake of our planet, we must help sustain that momentum. At the same time, we must fight to protect working families from being exploited with higher electricity bills just so monopoly, investor-owned utilities, like PNM and EPE can game the system to maintain big profits.
Since 2008, U.S. solar installations have grown from 1.2 gigawatts (GW) to an estimated 30 GW today. Since 2010, the cost of solar has dropped more than 60%. In the last decade, large scale solar energy projects have become more cost effective than other types of energy, including coal and nuclear.
“Rigging the bids on solar to increase investor owned utility capital is not just icing the cake, it is the cake,” said Mariel Nanasi, Executive Director for New Energy Economy. “Regulators have inexplicably sided with EPE in this case and failed to enforce the law requiring they balance the interests of shareholders with the kitchen-table needs of everyday New Mexico ratepayers.”
Just so you know, El Paso Electric targeted NEE supporters by asking all about YOU, our funders, our motivation for intervening and more. This was nothing but bullying and EPE trying to chill our First Amendment rights. New Energy Economy fought back to protect your privacy and basically told them it was none of their ******* business and has nothing to do with EPE’s requirement to prove its case.
Of course, we were professional and cited US Supreme Court law to bolster our position and to protect against their illegal fishing expedition, including: “It is beyond debate that freedom to engage in association for the advancement of beliefs and ideas is an inseparable aspect of the “liberty” assured by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which embraces freedom of speech.”
Thank you for staying on this journey with us and for your grassroots financial support!
Your New Energy Economy Team!