Roller coaster for renewables

Solar Roof Top

By Mona Blaber, communications coordinator

Renewable energy’s wild ride started in January, with a move by industry players to reverse the renewable-energy rule that New Mexico’s Public Regulation Commission had just passed in December 2012.

New Mexico Industrial Energy Consumers and other anti-renewables forces moved in just days after Commissioners Jason Marks and Doug Howe, who had worked to hold utilities accountable for complying with the state Renewable Energy Act, left office.

The saga of the important but complex renewables rule has lasted all year.

More than 1,200 of you commented to the Public Regulation Commission or contacted your commissioners to preserve the rule that was passed in December 2012. The PRC has likely never seen public participation at that level, even in rate cases.

In November, the outlook seemed bleak. PRC counsel made a surprise proposal that had not been commented on or considered previously, and the commission majority passed it the day it was proposed. The proposal gave utilities two credits for every kilowatt-hour of solar energy produced, and three credits for every kWh of geothermal and other energy.

This reduced by half the amount of solar energy utilities are required to produce, and reduced utilities’ geothermal requirements by two-thirds. It also cut the amount of renewable energy required overall, so that in 2015, when utilities should be providing 15 percent of their electricity from renewables, the actual amount produced would be 13.4 percent or less.

The Rio Grande Chapter protested these changes and their effects publicly, and the commission took notice. On Dec. 18, the same commissioners who voted for the damaging changes decided to revoke the 2-for-1 solar credits and reduced the weight the geothermal and “other” category to 2-for-1.

This means that solar requirements are safe for now, but not geothermal, and other changes made in the commission’s first decision artificially inflate the cost of renewable energy, allowing less renewable production under the PRC’s cost cap.
Commissioners Karen Montoya and Valerie Espinoza opposed both votes because of the lack of public input. The Rio Grande Chapter will continue its efforts in 2014 as the roller-coaster ride continues. Stay tuned!