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Victory at NM Supreme Court against utility obstruction of Community Solar and a call for action from YUCCA

Yesterday the New Mexico Supreme Court rejected the efforts of Southwestern Public Service Company (SPS) to stay the implementation of the Community Solar Act in New Mexico. This ruling came on the eve of today's Public Regulation Commission hearing to finalize the Community Solar rules that the private investor-owned-utilities (“IOUs”) have sought to delay.

This was a significant victory by New Energy Economy, the City of Las Cruces, the Coalition for Community Solar Access, the Renewable Energy Industries Association of New Mexico, and the Coalition for Sustainable Communities who opposed the utilities’ myopic and self-serving interpretation of the law. The rules the PRC adopted, as the legislation required, have implemented the necessary guidelines that would allow homeowners and businesses to begin building solar facilities and generating solar power, and will allow New Mexicans greater access to low-cost solar energy, especially low-income customers.

However, the IOUs efforts didn’t stop with their appeal and their motion to stay implementation of the Community Solar rules. The three monopoly utilities are using their control of the grid to obstruct in another way: refusing to allow solar implementation (this time) by enacting extremely long interconnection timelines for solar developers. EPE has been telling independent power producers that it will take 21 months to order and receive the necessary technical parts (reclosers, voltage regulators); PNM has told independent solar developers it will take up to 30 months to get the transformers needed to interconnect these community solar projects; and SPS has prolonged - again, for at least 12 months - the actual efforts to make meaningful progress on the solar projects’ deployment. What does this mean? It translates into DELAY - further obstruction.

Obstruction is the name of their game; meanwhile, customers lose out on reduced electricity bills, and we as a society lose out on climate and environmental progress.

So despite winning in the NM Supreme Court at this juncture, the utilities’ unabated foot-dragging when it comes to climate change and the conversion to renewables continues. By stalling interconnection as long as possible, which delays development and implementation, the IOUs have brought community solar access to a grinding halt.

How will the PRC hearing starting today make a difference?

The Commission's March 1 Order established the hearing’s scope to:

the calculation of the three-percent subsidization limit for each of the Qualifying Utilities, proposed rate riders for various costs, proposed charges and fees, proposed terms of payment and the calculation of the community solar bill credits. March 1 Order, ¶¶ 36-37.

Opponents will argue:

1. Efforts by the utilities to charge transmission costs to Community Solar subscribers is contrary to the Community Solar Act and PRC rules. The PRC directly prohibited inclusion of transmission costs in Community Solar rates because “community solar projects bring generation within the distribution level of the grid.” 

2. Community solar is a benefit to the overall system, not a cost. Community solar adds to the resiliency of the system and reduces the need to invest in large power plants  with all their concomitant capital improvement expenditures (including pollution controls) and expected return on equity; reducing fuel purchases; reducing capacity-driven upgrades to  transmission and distribution systems.

3. The advocates will raise the interconnection delays that have stalled and for now obstructed implementation of community solar.

We applaud the decision of the NM Supreme Court and we continue to argue that the obstruction by SPS, EPE and PNM is intended for one purpose and one purpose only: to delay Community Solar because it represents a crack in the anti-competitive and anti-consumer monopoly control these companies enjoy, and they are afraid of the competition. 

We’re sitting on the precipice of a robust renewable energy market and the utilities are refusing to open New Mexico’s door and allow independent energy producers to access our state’s vast solar potential. Families, small businesses, big businesses, renters, etc. are eager to take advantage of this amazing opportunity, and the investor-owned-utilities have been and continue to put up every barrier to our economic and energy transition. On the eve of the Community Solar hearing the NM Supreme Court's decision affirms that the investor-owned-utilities’ arguments are bogus. They are obstructing the economic growth and diversification of New Mexico’s energy economy.


Yes, this image is shocking. This young protester was physically removed by the neck as he peacefully called out for climate justice and a ceasefire in Palestine yesterday. In her speech the Governor falsely named New Mexico a "clean energy state," even as her administration has presided over the expansion of oil production from 531 million to 658 million barrels in just the past year. The protest organized by YUCCA (Youth United for Climate Crisis Action) along with the Southwest Coalition for Palestine, New Mexico Jews for a Free Palestine, Santa Feans for Justice in Palestine, the Santa Fe Ad Hoc Committee on Palestine, ABQ4Ceasefire Collective, and Northern NM Showing Up for Racial Justice included almost 100 activists who sat in the House gallery and interrupted the speech with wave after wave chanting "Global warming is a war of the rich upon the poor. Stop the bombing and the siege, Palestine will be free." In a Santa Fe New Mexican article Zephyr Jaramillo, campaign organizer for YUCCA was quoted saying:

“The message that we’re trying to deliver to the governor and lawmakers right now is that we elected them to represent us,” Jaramillo said. “They work for us, not industry, and right now they are not acting like it. We need courageous leadership.”Jaramillo said protesters also wanted to bring light to the “genocide” in Gaza amid a monthslong war between Israel and Hamas.“We will absolutely not allow New Mexico to continue to arm the war machine,” they said. “We do not want New Mexico to fuel the climate crisis, and the people want peace and justice everywhere, so we ask that folks stand up for a cease-fire, and we ask that they stand up for an economy that’s based on life and not death.”

The article further quoted a response from Rep. John Block, R-Alamogordo, who said the protesters were “insurrectionists” who should’ve been arrested and put in chains. That's rich coming from Block, who traveled to DC to join the insurrectionists who attempted to violently prevent the swearing in of President Joe Biden at the US Capitol. Peaceful protest is a vital part of our democracy and necessary to fighting for the change we need. Read more about the protest here.


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