PRC keeps renewables rule — sort of

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By Mona Blaber

We asked you to help protect renewable energy in New Mexico, and you responded — in force.

In April, after the Public Regulation Commission agreed to rehear the Reasonable Cost Threshold rule that enforces New Mexico’s Renewable Energy Act, the Rio Grande Chapter asked supporters to submit comments urging the commission not to weaken the rule.

972 New Mexicans — from Farmington to Portales to Cloudcroft to Las Cruces to Gallup — sent comments asking the commission not to change the rule the previous PRC had approved in December 2012 after 18 months of consideration.

New Mexico Industrial Energy Consumers, PNM and the Attorney General’s Office had petitioned the PRC to delete a portion of the rule. In effect, the changes could undermine enforcement of the state Renewable Energy Act, which requires that 15 percent of utilities’ electricity come from renewable energy by 2015 and 20 percent by 2020.

On May 1, the PRC decided to vacate the rehearing and publish the rule as it was passed in December. However, the commission also voted to open an entirely new case and consider the same rule changes that endanger enforcement. The May 1 ruling means utilities will file their 2014 renewable-energy plans under the rule that was passed in December. It’s possible that commissioners will see that the current rule is not as onerous as they have been led to believe by New Mexico Industrial Energy Consumers, PNM and the Attorney General’s Office, which has taken a consistently oppositional role to renewable energy.

Commissioners admitted the vote to vacate the rehearing was prompted by the fact that it was not likely to hold up legally, in part because the order for it had been signed by only one commissioner.
Opening a new case could allow the PRC to make the same rule changes in a way that’s more likely to stand up in court. And because the rule will be reconsidered under a new case number, the commission won’t have to consider those 972 comments on the previous case. But we know you’ll be there to make your voice heard again when the time comes, and we will keep you informed and involved.