Displaced coal miners, power plant workers ask for help with health insurance

Unions representing San Juan Generating Station and San Juan Mine employees asked the state for about $6 million in energy transition funds to reimburse displaced workers for the out-of-pocket health insurance costs they have faced since being laid off. The funds would come from the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions. This is especially important for the mine workers who lost health insurance at the end of the month that they were laid off. Power plant workers, on the other hand, have six months of health insurance following layoffs. Layoffs at the mine began last year as the facilities prepared to close.

State’s largest electric utility seeks new generation sources amid energy transition

As New Mexico works to transition to clean energy, the largest electric utility in the state issued a new request for proposals, or RFP. This RFP asks developers to propose projects that could help the Public Service Company of New Mexico meet increasing demands for energy. 

Nicholas Philips, PNM’s director of integrated resource planning, spoke with NM Political Report about the RFP on Monday. PNM will evaluate various factors in the RFP and the utility is looking for projects that can come online in 2026, 2027 or 2028. Philips said PNM’s economic development department is inundated with requests from businesses that have either not operated within PNM’s service territory or have not operated in New Mexico and are now exploring expanding their operations and opening locations within the PNM service territory. Another factor is the possibility that PNM could stop receiving power from the Four Corners Power Plant. 

Last year, state regulators denied PNM’s application to transfer its ownership shares of the coal-fired Four Corners Power Plant to Navajo Transitional Energy Company.

NM Supreme Court presses pause on rate credits for PNM customers

Customers of the state’s largest electric utility will continue paying the same rate they were paying when the San Juan Generating Station was operating—at least for now. Earlier this year, the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission ordered Public Service Company of New Mexico to issue rate credits to prevent customers from paying for the operations of a now-closed coal-fired power plant that customers no longer benefit from. PNM promptly appealed this order to the New Mexico Supreme Court and asked the court to stay the implementation of the rate credits until after the case is resolved. On Tuesday, the court granted this stay. That means customers will only see the rate credits if the state Supreme Court rules in favor of the state regulatory commission. 

Mariel Nanasi, the executive director of New Energy Economy and one of PNM’s more vocal critics, expressed disappointment with Tuesday’s decision.

Rising costs, delays continue to impact projects to replace San Juan Generating Station

The costs of replacing the electricity that Public Service Company of New Mexico will pay has increased and solar projects have been delayed. On Friday, PNM asked the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission to approve amendments to the San Juan Solar project’s power purchase agreement and energy storage agreement. These amendments include both a new completion date and new price with project developer D.E. Shaw Renewable Investments, or DESRI. Commissioners approved on order on a 4-1 vote on Wednesday allows for a hearing should any of the intervenors file an objection. Because of the time constraints, objections must be filed by noon this Friday.

Looking back at the San Juan Generating Station and those who fought against it

It was July 1, 1969. Representatives of Public Service Company of New Mexico and Tucson Gas and Electric signed an agreement to partner on the San Juan Generating Station. The first unit would be 330 megawatts and the two entities would evenly share the ownership and power generated. More than half a century later, the power plant they agreed to build is shutting down this week and for many of the activists who have fought against the coal-fired facility the moment feels a bit bittersweet. While they are excited to see the power plant that has emitted pollutants close, they say their work is not yet over.

Group accuses PNM, AVANGRID of misleading the public

An environment and consumer protection advocacy group said the Public Service Company of New Mexico and AVANGRID engaged in an ad campaign to mislead the public. New Energy Economy filed a motion to show cause with the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission on Friday. In a press release, the group stated that the order to show cause comes as a result of emails from confused New Mexico residents who have seen advertisements that make it look as if PNM and AVANGRID are a single company. The PRC rejected an application for the two entities to merge last year, though that decision has been appealed to the state Supreme Court. NEE has asked the PRC to investigate what it terms as a “deceptive and misleading co-branding strategy” that it alleges PNM and AVANGRID are engaging in because “they believe that the PRC’s decision is no more than a small pothole on the way to the merger that they are hell-bent on accomplishing.”

“When PNM CFO Don Tarry was deposed in another case, he accidentally referred to the merger as ‘delayed’ rather than its actual status – denied, because the PRC that we elected determined that it would not serve the public interest,” NEE Executive Director Mariel Nanasi said in a press release.

PNM ordered to show that it is following through with rate credits

After telling the Public Service Company of New Mexico to issue rate credits so that customers are not paying for a coal plant that is being retired, state regulators are now requesting proof that the utility has done so. The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission unanimously approved an order asking PNM to show that it has complied with its order. 

The rate credits should have started this month and will appear on customers’ electricity bills. They should be retroactive to July 1. For now, the average residential customer should see a $1.76 rate credit to reflect that unit one of the San Juan Generating Station is no longer in use. Starting in October, the rate credit will increase to $8.19 for residential customers after unit four, the last operating unit at the power plant, is retired.

PRC accuses PNM of misleading regulators, requires utility to issue rate credits upon San Juan unit closures

While accusing the state’s largest electric utility of purposefully misleading regulators, the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission ordered the Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) to issue rate credits to customers upon the closure of each remaining unit of the San Juan Generating Station. In its order, approved by a unanimous vote Wednesday, the PRC adopted the hearing examiners’ recommended decision that was made public earlier this month. PNM will also be required to include a prudency evaluation of its decision to delay issuing bonds in its next rate case. If it is found that the delay led to increased interest rates, the shareholders could be asked to absorb the costs of the increased interest rates. Unit One of the San Juan Generating Station will close this week and Unit Four will close this fall.

PRC rejects argument that state law requires approval of full decoupling

Asan increasing number of people install solar panels on their houses or make energy efficiency upgrades, the amount of electricity utilities sell may go down. This can impact the utility’s revenue streams, even as costs of maintaining and upgrading infrastructure remain. One way to address this is known as decoupling and the state’s largest utility, Public Service Company of New Mexico, argued that a 2019 amendment to the state’s Efficient Use of Energy Act requires the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission to approve applications for full decoupling. Decoupling is essentially a mechanism that removes the incentive for a utility to sell as much electricity as possible by reducing or eliminating the need to sell a certain amount of power to cover the fixed costs like maintenance and upgrades. During its Wednesday meeting, the commission unanimously rejected PNM’s argument, instead adopting a decision recommended by Hearing Examiner Anthony Medeiros.

PNM contracts for helicopter flights to inspect infrastructure for wildfire mitigation

The state’s largest electric utility entered a contract with a company to perform aerial surveys of transmission and distribution systems as part of a wildfire mitigation effort. This comes after several large, catastrophic wildfires in the western United States have been linked to electric utility infrastructure. Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) announced on Tuesday that it has hired EDM International, Inc. to perform inspections and inventory of transmission and distribution systems in the PNM service territory. These surveys will involve flying a helicopter equipped with cameras above power lines. The high-resolution images captured during the process will allow PNM to evaluate the vegetation as well as rights-of-way and infrastructure integrity, according to a press release from the utility.