Today the PRC gave final approval for 100% solar and storage replacement power for the Palo Verde nuclear plant. It has been a long hard road, but we know that clean renewable energy is the future and it is here now.
Also today we saw the results of PNM's campaign to convince lawmakers that brownouts and blackouts are inevitable, scaring legislators into tacking an amendment onto SB 14, the Clean Fuel Standard Act, to keep the San Juan Generating Station open longer and inserting language in the amendment that will allow them to acquire ANY replacement power source over the course of the next year without PRC approval. PNM has been on a quest to build more dirty gas plants and this amendment will give them carte blanche. We have written a letter to legislators to advise them to remove the duplicitous language, but with less than 24 hours before Sine Die we are not hopeful anything will change.
In a February 3rd investor presentation PNM CEO Pat Vincent-Collawn betrayed the lie at the heart of PNM's dishonest campaign to strike fear into the heart of our state's leadership and extend the life of coal and gas electricity in New Mexico. Asked about resource planning to cover power over the summer and onwards, Vincent-Collawn answered:
[There are] several options. We could keep the plant open a few months longer. We are looking at market purchases. I have an 11 by 17 sheet of every option that we are going over and we are close to finalizing that, and we'll make an announcement on what we're going to do in the next couple of weeks. But I can assure you we do have the Resources covered for the summer time, but you got it right. It is the west wide problem and actually if you look at what's going on. Globally, it's a global problem, but we are fortunate that we're going to be able to cover.
This investor presentation was given just two weeks ago, on February 3rd, at the same time that every Republican in the legislature was parroting talking points about the brownouts and blackouts we could expect over the summer, hyperventilating that "Your fridge will be melting!," and the AG was taking advantage of the fear mongering to point fingers at the PRC, who opened a docket in 2020 to investigate and ensure New Mexico's power needs are covered.
PNM has gotten the Democrats to insert language into SB 14, the Clean Fuels Act, that allows PNM to acquire any new resources to meet resource inadequacy circumstances through a notification process made to the Commission on or before March 10, 2023. No vetting, no cost information, just a blank check. This amendment will allow PNM to acquire any new resource that it will use on a temporary basis without any alternative analysis or oversight whatsoever. We fear that PNM wants to purchase LM6000 gas units and install them at its La Luz site. If this is the case, we will not know the price in advance; and we will not know how many gas units. What we do know is that if the Legislature passes SB 14 as amended, it could lead to PNM owning a gas plant, obtained without going through any industry-standard competitive process, and after one year, it will able to reassert reliability concerns and then this SB14 amendment could assure another gas plant on PNM’s system until 2045. This will result in more carbon emissions, higher rates, and stranded assets. The useful life of a gas plant is 40 years. Per the ETA we will have to depreciate this plant within 22.5 years. Also, it is nearly impossible that the gas plant will be built and operating within 4 months – the timeframe needed – that this amendment is designed to address.
Forget the NM Constitution that requires the PRC to regulate "public utilities," though they are for-profit Wall Street entities. Forget the NM Constitution that forbids the Legislature from acting on pending cases. New Mexico Constitution Art. IV §34.
We wish the legislature would respect the law and regulatory authority. Here is an excerpt from the AG letter filed in NM PRC Case 21-00159-UT that demonstrates the complexity of this issue in a case that is already pending to investigate the issue and explore solutions:
Accordingly, there are a number of questions that the commission must address before approving any plan to extend the life of SJGS, including whether there exists the necessary staffing levels for operating the plant, especially for skilled positions such as electricians, and whether the necessary negotiations with the local labor groups are underway to ensure the workforce to maintain reliable service. Perhaps more significant is whether adequate safety protocols are in place should SJGS fail. These are just some of the questions that my staff is investigating. The bottom line is if SGJS is the only plan in place at this time to prevent what could be a devastating public health and safety crisis, the Commission and the parties to 21-00159- UT must examine other options in the event that the SJGS is not available or sufficient to meet the demand at the peak of the summer season.
There are many other options. The legislature is stepping out of its lane and it’s expertise and doesn’t have full information and is circumventing actual regulation!
The corporate capture of legislators is deeply disturbing and infuriating. Please text any legislators you know and write: "Vote NO on SB 14 as amended - it is a corporate giveaway, unconstitutional, undemocratic, will cause the increase of emissions, and result in stranded assets for the benefit of PNM's senior management and shareholders." Or a version that you write.
Thanks for standing with us - only together can we face corporate theft of our democracy and the poisoning of our environment.