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This week: 8% bill reduction victory; fighting for community solar at the PRC & HB108

First, in a historic victory PNM's compliance filing reveals that the actual results of the imprudence findings and disallowances won in the recent PNM rate case will amount to an 8% reduction on average PNM residential ratepayer bills. This savings of an average $15 per month is unprecedented - a result of years of effort to hold PNM accountable. Rate riders reducing energy bills for New Mexicans include rate credits won in the settlement of the San Juan coal plant securitization case and disallowances associated with the imprudence findings for PNM's investments in the Four Corners Power Plant and Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station. Unsurprisingly PNM has already indicated its intention to file another rate case next year.

We are buoyed by this significant victory over monopoly utility exploitation as we work to write our Brief in Chief in the New Mexico Gas Company LNG case that was heard last week, and prepare for the hearing beginning Wednesday to defend New Mexico's nascent Community Solar program against utility sabotage in Case 23-00071-UT at the PRC.

Our expert witness, John Farrell submitted testimony to oppose the repeated efforts of all three investor owned utilities in New Mexico - PNM, SPS and EPE - to illegally raise the monthly solar tariff costs that must be paid by Community Solar developers to the utility in an effort to make community solar subscriptions less attractive and advantageous for New Mexico families. 

Despite repeated direction from the PRC to exclude transmission and distribution costs, the utilities continue to propose tariffs that include these bogus costs. The inclusion of transmission and distribution costs in Community Solar rates is not only contrary to every other Community Solar program in the country, it is based on a fallacy. As our expert testified, Community Solar projects actually decrease transmission and distribution costs for utilities by reducing the need to invest in large power plants with all their related capital improvement expenditures and expected return on equity; reducing fuel purchases; reducing capacity-driven upgrades to transmission and distribution systems; and by providing voltage support to distribution.

In other words, without these additional, distributed solar projects helping to provide energy to the grid, New Mexico utilities would need to build and charge ratepayers for new utility-scale renewable or gas plants and related transmission costs in order to meet the projected sharp increase in electricity use expected due to increasing electrification of home appliances, heating, and electric vehicle transportation.

As pointed out in our testimony, since its inception, the community solar program serving Xcel Energy customers in Minnesota has provided the grid over 850 megawatts of new, renewable electricity generation using only private capital. Approximately 25,000 residential Minnesota customers receive significant bill savings as a result. Utility executives understand that returns to shareholders are threatened by community-owned clean energy projects like Community Solar, and they are doing everything in their power to obstruct this threat to their profits. 



The Local Solar Access Fund has now been prefiled and assigned HB108 (an auspicious number in Vedic lore, which holds that when the number 108 appears in our life it may mean that we are about to attain a long-desired goal or achievement!). Momentum is building, with endorsements from Habitat for Humanity, the Coalition for Sustainable Communities, Sierra Club, NM Solar Energy Association, Democratic Party Environmental Justice Coalition, YUCCA, Indivisible Albuquerque, Indivisible SOS, NM Health Professionals for Climate Action, NM Climate Justice, Indigenous Lifeways, NM Dream Team, Santa Fe DSA, NM Immigrant Law Center, Wild Earth Guardians, Common Ground Rising, Earthcare, Eclipse, and NM No False Solutions. Read the one pager here.

We need you to take action to get HB108 across the finish line and bring $110 million to New Mexico communities to build publicly owned solar and battery storage across the state. We will be reposting alerts from Public Power NM when the bill is scheduled for hearings or votes and hope that you will show up at the Roundhouse.


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