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Reader view: We must create our energy future

Posted: Saturday, January 3, 2015 9:00 pm

By Celeste Worl

I’m proud to be an active and engaged Santa Fean. What I love most about our city is that we aren’t content with a status quo that doesn’t realize our true potential, that doesn’t reflect the Santa Fe we want to be — creative, sustainable, diverse, just.

So we keep striving.

When Public Service Company of New Mexico announced plants to close half a coal plant, I was hopeful that we would now seize the opportunity to replace dirty coal, which has plagued our people, and replace it with the clean and affordable wind and solar that is so abundant here in New Mexico.

But instead of renewable energy that reduces carbon emissions, saves water and creates good-paying local jobs, PNM is proposing to replace that lost energy with nuclear power and more coal. If it sounds absurd, that’s because it is.

Like most Santa Feans, I want more clean energy, and I hate the idea that any of the money I pay to PNM each month is used to subsidize coal and nuclear power. It’s a conundrum because I use energy, but this same energy is devastating our people and the Earth, the only place we call home. I realize this means a personal responsibility of using less, but it also means that we must collectively demand that the utility monopoly, PNM, wean off dirty, expensive, risky energy — the kind that causes climate change, negative local health consequences and 16 percent rate hikes! PNM is not going to provide us with the clean power we need unless we make that demand.

Here’s what I’m doing:

• Supporting the city’s Climate Action Task Force. I’m encouraged by the level of public engagement I’ve already observed.

• Making art for Monday’s 9 a.m. demonstration against PNM’s plan for more coal and more nuclear at the PERA building, across from the Roundhouse.

• Supporting Santa Fe Public Power, a municipal energy utility proposed by City Councilor Peter Ives.

Frankly, I’m excited about the potential for a city utility to put us in the driver’s seat of creating the energy future we want.

Contrary to some of the scare tactics you might hear, a city power company would not displace PNM and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars (it has no cost because all it would do, at first, is establish authority), but it would allow us to compete on an equal footing when new developments come online.

With our own municipal utility, we could become a model, ensuring that all people have access to energy efficiency and solar, and that new growth is powered by affordable, clean energy. It’s not perfect, but our water utility is the envy of cities nationwide. The city of Santa Fe has made people water conscious, and we are more water secure then when PNM owned it. What if we applied the same principles and values to our own Santa Fe Public Power energy utility? Exciting thought.

Despite PNM’s claims, there is no risk of millions of dollars. It’s not about eminent domain. It’s about taking care of our own. It’s about fostering energy democracy so we can pursue the priorities that are most important to our community.

It is long past time that we get serious about reducing our carbon emissions, replacing dirty energy with wind and solar, and taking care of the place, people and animals we love.

Celeste Worl was born and raised in southeastern Alaska. She is Tlingit (Alaska Native) and has lived in Santa Fe for more than 20 years. The 2-D artist graduated from the Institute of American Indian Arts in 2000. She works as a disc jockey (Party with a Purpose) and is on the board of Santa Fe Art Institute. Worl Studio is at the Artyard/Railyard.


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