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Reader View: Balderas should withdraw support for PNM plan

Posted: Saturday, April 25, 2015 7:00 pm

By Ron Flax-Davidson

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas should withdraw support for the Public Service Company of New Mexico Energy Supply Plan because new evidence shows that PNM provided incorrect information regarding the costs of the original plan.

The utility now admits that the actual costs of the plan will be much higher — perhaps as much as more than $1 billion higher, according to testimony provided at recent Public Regulation Commission hearings. That’s far in excess of alternative energy supply plans.

On Oct. 1, 2014, then-Attorney General Gary King agreed to support PNM’s plan to close down two coal units at the San Juan Generating Station (Units 2 and 3) due to the prohibitive cost of meeting new Environmental Protection Agency environmental requirements.

Since that date, New Energy Economy and other interveners have petitioned the Public Regulation Commission against the plan. They allege that the information provided by PNM as to the likely cost of such replacement power was grossly inaccurate, and show that the actual costs of replacement power sources could be nearly a billion dollars more expensive to ratepayers. That is far in excess of the cost of local, clean, renewable resources (wind and solar).

Using renewable resources also has other positive impacts on New Mexico’s citizens. That includes providing significantly more local jobs and economic development. New Mexico could expect nearly $1 billion of economic impact and 2,000 new jobs), a significant reduction in environmental hazards, and the assurance of a long-term, lower and fixed cost of power. That’s opposed to the uncertain future costs of coal and uranium fuel supply, as well as the future likely higher costs for coal and nuclear power plant compliance with future stricter environmental requirements.

With this new information, several of the original plan supporters have withdrawn their backing, including the city of Farmington, the city of Albuquerque, the New Mexico Independent Power Producers and New Mexico Renewable Energy Industries. (The city of Santa Fe was an early opponent of the plan.) Even the PRC hearing examiner has objected to parts of the plan.

Based on this new information, Attorney General Balderas also should withdraw his department’s support. Additionally, Balderas should ask the PRC to require PNM to present a revised replacement power supply plan providing for the “least-cost alternative” as required by law. That, of course, would mean lower-cost and locally produced renewable energy.

Ron Flax-Davidson of Santa Fe builds wind farms in Latin America and is a member of the finance subcommittee of the Santa Fe Climate Action Task Force.


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