NM renewable energy group awaits conflict-of-interest decision

SANTA FE, N.M. – New Mexico needs more affordable solar, but a renewable energy group says two members of the Public Regulation Commission have a conflict of interest and should not be allowed to participate in the decision. Mariel Nanasi, an attorney with New Energy Economy, says commissioners Sandy Jones and Lynda Lovejoy should not vote on a PRC solar contract decision because they’re up for re-election and they received campaign contributions from the company. The PRC will decide on an application by El Paso Electric to purchase a $4.5 million solar farm to be built by Affordable Solar. The company’s registered lobbyist is also the campaign consultant for Jones’ and Lovejoy’s re-election bids. Nanasi maintains the two commissioners should recuse themselves from the decision.

Bill to ease plant closing impact heads to House floor

In a case of strange political bedfellows, a conservative lawmaker from San Juan County and the leader of a Santa Fe environmental group not known for compromising came together Tuesday to back a bill aimed at easing the economic woes of New Mexico communities hit by the closing of large coal-burning power plants. The House of Representives voted 44-25 to pass Rep. Rod Montoya’s House Bill 325, designed to help a large school district keep most of its tax base if Public Service Company of New Mexico closes the San Juan Generating Station by 2022. To become a reality, the measure would also have to clear the Senate before the Legislature adjourns at noon Thursday. “Are you going to refer to me as an environmentalist activist,” Montoya joked with a reporter Tuesday. Endorsing the bill was Mariel Nanasi, executive director of New Energy Economy, a Santa Fe-based non-profit that has fought many PNM rate increases and other proposals before the state Public Regulation Commission.

Proposed law on power plant closings draws critics

A bill aimed at easing economic woes of New Mexico communities hit by the closing of large power plants might make it harder to shut down coal-burning operations, some environmentalists said Friday. House Bill 325, introduced this week by House Minority Whip Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, would require the state Public Regulation Commission to consider the economic effects on communities when deciding cases involving the shuttering of large power sources such as the San Juan Generating Station in northwestern New Mexico. The bill — which is scheduled to be heard Saturday by the House Judiciary Committee — also would require a utility to build any replacement power source in the same community as the facility it plans to close. “My bill is about trying to help my community,” Montoya said Friday. He said that about 45 percent of local tax revenue used by the school district in Kirtland comes from the power plant, while another 8 percent comes from the nearby San Juan coal mine.

NM’s PRC to decide $150 million coal plant reimbursement

SANTA FE, N.M. – A continuing dispute over rate hikes by Public Service Company of New Mexico is back before the Public Regulation Commission tomorrow. PNM had planned to use a January 1 ratepayer hike to recover hundreds of millions of dollars in upgrades at its Four Corners plant until the PRC backed an environmental group’s claim that its financial analysis and risk assessment were flawed. Mariel Nanasi, executive director of the advocacy group New Energy Economy, successfully argued that spending at the generating station would be “imprudent” and consumers should not have to pay investment costs at the coal-fired plant. “You can’t spend that much money and not do a valid financial analysis because ratepayers must be held harmless for the imprudent decisions of utility management,” she says. PNM is asking the commission to adopt an earlier agreement to increase residential customer rates by nearly nine percent over the next two years.

Bill would ask utilities to choose least costly energy alternative

State Sen. Joe Cervantes wants to ensure that electric companies in New Mexico are getting the best prices for their power sources, and he wants the state to use more renewable energy. The Las Cruces Democrat this week introduced a bill that would require publicly owned electric utilities to choose the least-costly alternative when proposing purchases of new energy sources. “This begins with the recognition that the price for renewable energy is falling dramatically,” Cervantes told The New Mexican on Friday. “So the goal behind this legislation would be to try to encourage a competitive market, which is emerging with renewable energy.” Currently, Cervantes said, investor-owned utilities “are relying on their own generation of electricity.”