May 30, 2018

NM renewable energy group awaits conflict-of-interest decision

A solar array at Nellis Air Force Base. Wikicommons

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.

“The main thrust is that there’s been a public trust that these commissioners are supposed to uphold and they have violated it by commingling and entangling their personal gains with that public trust,” Nanasi states.

New Energy Economy opposes the El Paso Electric deal with Affordable Solar because the utility didn’t consider buying solar energy from an independent power producer as an alternative.

In filing the motion asking commissioners Jones and Lovejoy to recuse themselves, New Energy Economy noted that Jones has received at least $13,000 dollars in political donations from Affordable Solar, and Lovejoy has received $4,500.

Nanasi says New Mexico needs more affordable solar energy, but citizens should expect a fair and impartial contract decision.

“We want solar, but we want it to be inexpensive and we don’t believe that biased commissioners should be adjudicating these proceedings,” she stresses.

Jones has criticized New Energy Economy as the “biggest obstacle” to bringing renewable energy to New Mexico.

But Nanasi argues that big utilities should have to compete fairly against independent power producers because it allows ratepayers the lowest price available.