State utility regulators look toward increased adoption of electric vehicles

Utility regulators in New Mexico are preparing for increasing use of electric vehicles in the state and, while they have approved transportation electrification plans for the three investor-owned utilities in New Mexico, they say there is still more work to do. New Mexico Public Regulation Commissioner Joseph Maestas spoke about the need for a rulemaking process for electric transportation and said the PRC must plan for the $38 million that New Mexico will receive for charging infrastructure under the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Maetas offered these comments during the PRC’s meeting last week following the approval of two transportation electrification plans. 

Southwestern Public Service Company, Public Service Company of New Mexico and El Paso Electric were required to submit transportation electrification plans to the PRC by the start of this year under the PRC Application for Public Safety law that passed the state Legislature in 2019. All three utilities filed these applications in 2020 and these plans have now been adopted. SPS’s plan received PRC approval in September and, on Nov.

PRC hearing examiner recommends approval of PNM’s Four Corners shares transfer to NTEC

While environmental advocacy groups are concerned that transferring Public Service Company of New Mexico’s 13 percent ownership share in the Four Corners Power Plant to Navajo Transitional Energy Company will lead to continued or increased emissions, a hearing examiner for the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission recommended last week that the state regulators approve that transfer. The hearing examiner, Anthony Medeiros, recommended that the state regulators approve PNM’s application to transfer its shares in the coal-fired power plant to NTEC in 2024. About a year ago, PNM announced the plans to sell its 13 percent share to NTEC, a Navajo Nation enterprise, for $1 and to pay NTEC $75 million to assume its obligations under the coal supply agreement. The PNM shareholders are paying the $75 million. PNM claims that transferring its ownership shares to NTEC will save customers $30 million to $300 million.

Hearing examiner says potential harms outweigh benefits in PNM/Avangrid merger

A hearing examiner for the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission says the harms of a proposed merger between the state’s largest electric utility and a global utility giant outweigh the benefits. Hearing Examiner Ashley Schannauer issued his recommendation that the PRC deny the merger between Public Service Company of New Mexico and Avangrid, the U.S. subsidiary of the Spanish firm Iberdrola in a report released on Monday. In October 2020, Avangrid announced plans to buy PNM’s parent company, PNM Resources. PNM Resources also owns Texas New Mexico Power and the Texas utility regulators have already approved the merger. Related: Connecticut-based utility company agrees to buy PNM Resources

In his 445-page report, Schannauer outlines a variety of potential harms that could occur should the merger be approved.

PRC kicks off formal community solar rulemaking process

After months of informal stakeholder meetings, the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission drafted a proposed community solar rule and  opened the formal rulemaking process. The PRC unanimously approved an order kicking off the formal process during its Wednesday meeting. The rules must be in place by April 1 under the Community Solar Act. 

The notice of proposed rulemaking will be published in the New Mexico Register on Nov. 9. After that, the public will have until Dec.

PRC plans to open official inquiry into San Juan cooling tower collapse

The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission plans to open an investigation into a cooling tower collapse that happened in late June at the San Juan Generating Station. “We had a major baseload component of our power system go down and we were in the dark about it,” said Commission Chairman Stephen Fischmann, who added that an investigation will create a formal record. This unanimous decision came after Public Service Company of New Mexico, the majority owner and operator of the plant, presented information to the commission during a Wednesday meeting. It was the first time that PNM officials spoke publicly about the incident. Mark Fenton, the executive director of regulatory policy for PNM, said the company was concerned that market prices could increase if it became widely known that the power plant’s unit was not supplying electricity to customers.

‘New Mexico is leading the nation’: Renewables set to replace coal-fired San Juan Generating Station

With a unanimous vote Wednesday morning, the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (PRC) ended one piece of a year-long debate on the future of coal in the Four Corners region. The utility PNM, which is slated to exit the San Juan Generating Station in 2022, will now need to rely on 100 percent renewable energy and battery storage to replace the power generated at the coal-fired plant. 

Commissioners were faced with the tough decision of weighing the economic future of the Four Corners area with the climate goals of the landmark Energy Transition Act (ETA), a 2019 law which mandates the state move to 100 percent carbon-free electricity generation by 2050. 

“With all the facts put on the table, and all the facts that our hearing examiners worked on, we’re moving New Mexico forward,” said PRC chairperson Theresa Becenti-Aguilar during the meeting. “And the changing energy economy in the communities of the San Juan station—it’s happening, it’s moving today.”

The decision was lauded by a multitude of clean energy advocacy, environmental and grassroots community groups that called on the commission to approve the replacement power scenario proposed by the Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy. The proposal includes 650 MW of solar resources and 300 MW of battery storage resources, with 430 MW of solar and $447 million worth of capital investments located within the Central Consolidated School District in San Juan County. Another 520 MW of renewable energy and roughly $500 million of capital investment would be located in McKinley County and the Jicarilla Apache reservation in Rio Arriba County.

‘Zoom bombs’ create a concern for distance learning in NM

For the past several weeks, people all over the country have flocked to online meeting platforms in an attempt to stay connected with both friends and coworkers amid the global COVID-19 pandemic that has resulted in a number of mandatory shelter in place orders. 

But as more people use virtual meeting platforms like Google or Zoom, there are reports of increased malicious activity, which is now known to some as “Zoom-bombing.” Meetings around the country have reportedly been interrupted with unknown users who use racist language or share pornographic material. 

The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission experienced its first “Zoom bomb” on Wednesday when, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican, an unknown individual used offensive language before a loud mix of talking and noises led to an abrupt end to the meeting.