Tomorrow New Mexico's Supreme Court justices will hear arguments to determine whether our elected PRC properly rejected Avangrid and Iberdrola's proposed buyout of PNM. Their decision will impact the bills, service and speed of transition to renewable energy for more than half of New Mexican families and businesses.
When the PRC rejected Avangrids proposed merger in 2021 they relied on compelling and extensive evidence of Avangrid and parent company Iberdrola's poor service and failure to comply with laws and regulatory oversight in the other markets where they operate. The Hearing Examiner's recommendation against the deal, and the PRC's subsequent unanimous vote and Order rejecting the merger were clear that it was the company's own record that made the case against Avangrid, proving that the company could not be trusted to operate in the public interest.
That case has only grown stronger in the ensuing years, as the New Mexican's Against Avangrid report illustrates so clearly. Some of the most egregious recent evidence in the report includes:
August, 2023: Avangrid subsidiary United Illuminating requested an annual average residential bill increase of 8% starting Sept. 1. The Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, also known as PURA, ruled a 2% hike was more appropriate. The state Attorney General's brief opposing Avangrid’s “bloated” and “unsupported” $136.5 million rate increase, stated in part, “From a request to fund pet sitting services for its employees working from home on a hybrid schedule, to its request for ratepayers to fund $30,000 ‘European’ Loyalty Awards for its already handsomely compensated employees, to its request for a solar and battery storage project costing $14.7 million to service two customers on Pleasure Beach Island, UI’s [Avangrid subsidiary United Illuminating’s] rate application grasps for ratepayer funding that is neither prudent nor reasonable.” Avangrid’s U.S. utilities have consistently applied for high electric and gas rate increases – a total of $690 million in 2022 alone.
June, 2023: Avangrid was penalized with $21.6 million in “negative revenue adjustments” for “lagging” performance. The New York Public Service Commission penalized both Avangrid/Rochester Gas and Electric and Avangrid/New York State Electric & Gas (NYSEG) for failing to meet all four of its customer service metrics. Avangrid/NYSEG was the only utility in the state that failed to meet its reliability target.
Since 2006 Avangrid has contributed $46,000 to GASPAC, the political action committee of the American Gas Association, and $55,000 to an organization called Power PAC of the Edison Electric Institute which is lobbying against the Biden administration’s plans to require existing natural gas–fired power plants to make technical upgrades and curb climate-warming emissions. Since 2021, Avangrid has contributed $15,000 to the American Clean Power Association, a greenwashing group formed in 2021 with board members from BP and Shell that advocates an "all of the above" energy policy, including fossil fuels and natural gas.
Avangrid argues in their appeal that the Hearing Examiner and the PRC improperly based their 2021 decision on hearsay and testimony that they claim should not have been admitted. The Hearing Examiner properly admitted all relevant evidence about the character, qualifications and reputation of Avangrid and Iberdrola, as that was necessary to make a determination about whether the merger was in the public interest. The company's own misconduct during the case itself also proved them untrustworthy. The PRC is charged with ensuring that any company that wants to provide a fundamental service like electricity - a service upon which the lives and livelihoods of New Mexicans are completely dependent - must prove its character and capability beyond any doubt.
Avangrid and Iberdrola's own record of failures and arrogance towards regulatory oversight caused the rightful rejection of the merger by the PRC, and their continuing failure to properly serve their customers is proof positive that the PRC made the right call.
Tomorrow we will once again argue the facts - Avangrid is not a trustworthy partner for New Mexico.
Oral argument at the NM Supreme Court (237 Don Gaspar Avenue, Santa Fe, NM) will take place tomorrow from 9:00AM to 10:00AM. Arrive early to be seated. If you can't come in person, proceedings can be viewed online here.