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NM Supreme Court Justices issue same-day decision rejecting bid to delay Community Solar in a scathing rebuke of monopoly investor owned utilities in New Mexico

This morning the NM Supreme Court heard arguments on the appeal brought by the monopoly utilities in New Mexico (PNM, El Paso Electric (EPE) and Southwest Public Service Company (SPS)) to vacate the Community Solar rules on specious grounds in their effort to continue to delay the advent of competition and lower costs for electricity customers. We argued, along with the Coalition for Community Solar Access, the Renewable Energy Industry Association, the City of Las Cruces and the Coalition of Sustainable Communities that the utility's complaints were ultimately just policy disagreements with the Community Solar legislation and/or the Commission's record based determinations, and that they did not raise actual legal errors that merit a Supreme Court appeal.

Today in a swift and resounding rebuke on the same day as oral argument, the Court "determined that the Public Regulation Commission should be affirmed without further delay to the implementation of the Community Solar Program." 

One key issue argued by the utilities was the legality of Commission rules governing the sharing of interconnection costs. The Community Solar Act requires that “a qualifying utility and its non-subscribing customers do not subsidize the [interconnection] costs attributable to the subscriber organization.” NMSA 1978, § 62-16B-7(B)(6). The Commission captured this mandate in Rule 573, providing that “there will be no subsidization of interconnection costs by nonsubscribing ratepayers.” 17.9.573.13(C) NMAC.

Generally, owners and operators of community solar facilities will be required to pay the costs of interconnection. However, in certain circumstances the substantive benefits of an interconnection exceed the costs, in effect actually providing a benefit to utility customers. In such circumstances, the rule was drafted to allow for shared costs of interconnection costs between Community Solar subscribers and utility ratepayers. (17.9.573.13(C) NMAC.)

The utilities attempted to argue that interconnection costs must always be borne by Community Solar subscribers, even if in effect this amounted to subscribers subsidizing utility ratepayers. The Justices roundly rejected that argument.

In bringing this appeal the utilities tried to frustrate the legislature's intent in passing the Community Solar Act by obstructing implementation of the Community Solar rules and arguing for added costs to make Community Solar subscriptions less attractive to potential subscribers. Today the NM Supreme Court delivered a swift and resounding rebuke, ordering that the rules adopted by the Public Regulation Commission be implemented without further delay. Community Solar developers are knocking on New Mexico's door, eager to unleash New Mexico's abundant solar potential. The monopoly utilities did everything in their power to hold the door shut. Today's decisive opinion will allow for solar competition and lower cost, clean energy for New Mexicans.


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