Find Savings In Energy Efficiency

By Chuck Noble / Attorney for Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy. Originally published on Sunday, July 24, 2011 in the Albuquerque Journal

On July 18, PNM filed a document with the Public Regulation Commission called an Integrated Resource Plan. PNM’s Integrated Resource Plan is intended to provide a road map to the company and regulators for what new power plants or other supply- or demand-side resources will need to be acquired to meet customer electric demands until 2030.

Unfortunately, PNM’s plan continues the same strategies that have caused the huge rate increases recently imposed on PNM customers. PNM has already raised rates by 25 percent in recent years and is currently asking the PRC for another 20 percent rate increase, bringing the total to 50 percent in just a few years.

At the same time, PNM is not doing nearly enough to mitigate future rate increases driven by its continued investment in old, dirty, fossil-fuel power plants and in new gas-fired plants. The ratepayers of New Mexico would be better served by a much more aggressive implementation of energy efficiency and clean, renewable energy.

The PNM plan continues the same business strategy that invests millions to upgrade old coal plants, which have a normal operating life of 30 years but some of which are now more than 35 years old. PNM intends to continue operating these plants for well over 54 years. Plants are like an old car – at some point it’s cheaper to replace them with more efficient, cleaner generation than to continue pouring money from ratepayers into the deep hole of plant upgrades. Moreover, as air-quality restrictions become tighter, even more expensive upgrades to the old coal plants will be needed to improve air quality.

The PNM plan underinvests in energy-efficiency projects. Energy-efficiency projects are by far the least expensive way to ensure adequate power supplies in the future. The Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy believes PNM should aggressively pursue energy-efficiency projects as an alternative to rate increases.

The Renewable Energy Act requires that 20 percent of PNM’s energy must be from renewable sources by 2020. The PNM plan provides that only 13 percent of its energy will come from renewable resources, even by 2030. Yet wind power has shown itself to be a cost-effective energy source and is not being fully utilized. PNM’s plan is especially hard to understand when you consider the vast amounts of inexpensive wind resources in eastern New Mexico. Solar power provides clean sustainable energy that is not subject to the risks of increasing natural gas prices and avoids emissions that pollute our air, lakes and streams.

The Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy urges the Public Regulation Commission to reject PNM’s Integrated Resource Plan and instead direct PNM to focus on energy-efficiency projects and renewable resources that will save ratepayers money and will result in a healthier New Mexico.