PNM targets renewables rule

By John Buchser
Chapter chair

Most of us would be happy to learn that the mix of fuels powering our TVs and refrigerators is moving toward sun and wind and away from water-guzzling coal and nuclear plants.

New Mexico has a law requiring that gradual transition to renewable energy, because as we all know, the health and safety of our kids and New Mexico’s drought-prone climate depend on it.

Which is why the Rio Grande Chapter is working to stop PNM and other industry forces from rewriting the rule that enforces that law.

In March, PNM, New Mexico Industrial Energy Consumers and the Attorney General’s office convinced the Public Regulation Commission to consider changing its “Renewable Cost Threshold” rule in a way that is likely to undermine New Mexico’s renewable-energy law.

New Mexico law says utilities like PNM must produce 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2015 and 20 percent by 2020.

But that law is enforced by the PRC through the Reasonable Cost Threshold rule.

Using this cost threshold as an excuse, PNM lingered at 6 percent renewable energy into 2012, despite a legal requirement of 10 percent by 2010.

After an 18-month process that included multiple public hearings and considerable stakeholder input, the PRC approved a revised Renewable Cost Threshold rule by a 4-1 vote, before Commissioners Doug Howe and Jason Marks left office.

But PNM and other anti-renewable forces are already on the attack to change the rule.

With the convenient turnover of the two PRC seats, PNM and New Mexico Industrial Energy Consumers have convinced the new commission to consider deleting a few lines of text. The change would make renewable energy seem more costly, which in turn makes it easier for utilities to claim they can’t meet the legal requirements at a price below the Reasonable Cost Threshold.

Congratulations to District 1 Commissioner Karen Montoya, who voted against reconsidering a narrow section of this rule that has already been carefully considered — and that doesn’t say what its opponents claim it does.

Rio Grande Chapter leaders have testified before the Public Regulation Commission, and many of our activists have sent comments to their commissioners about the rehearing of the rule and the questionable ways in which PRC staff brought the issue before the commission. The rule will be reheard May 9, and more than 950 of our supporters sent written public comments before the April 17 deadline.

Please contact camilla.feibelman@sierraclub.org or monablaber@gmail.com to learn what you can do to join the effort to stop changes to this rule. This rule is one of the most important ways we have of enforcing New Mexico’s renewable-energy law. Selectively editing it at the behest of industry forces could mean the difference between doubling New Mexico’s renewable energy within eight years and allowing PNM and other utilities to dodge the law for the foreseeable future.