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.

PNM’s plans for the future include reduced baseload power and increased renewable energy

New Mexico’s largest electric utility is planning to reduce its baseload power while increasing power generated by renewable sources and possibly adding natural gas generation with turbines capable of producing power from hydrogen.

Baseload generation provides a relatively steady supply of power. Currently, Public Service Company of New Mexico, or PNM, relies on coal-fired power plants and a nuclear generating station to provide baseload power. The company filed a 2020 integrated resource plan with the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission in January and is awaiting approval includes exiting coal in 2024 and reducing its capacity in Palo Verde Generating Station, which provides nuclear power. 

An integrated resource plan is essentially a roadmap looking at where the utility wants to be in the future. 

While the plans provide a roadmap for going forward, they are not a set-in-stone path. PNM’s 2014 integrated resource plan indicated the San Juan Generating Station would remain operating until 2053. Three years later, the utility announced that it would close the coal-fired power plant in 2022.

Report: Solar jobs growing nationwide and in NM

This week, the Solar Foundation released its 2016 job census. Nationally, solar was the top source of newly-installed energy capacity. Environment New Mexico Executive Director Sanders Moore pointed out that at the end of last year, there were nearly 3,000 New Mexicans working in the solar industry. Women hold just under half those jobs, 33 percent of the workers are Latino or Hispanic, and almost 9 percent are veterans. Unlike many other economic indicators, New Mexico is ahead of the curve when it comes to job growth in solar.