AG, Industry Group Ignore Clean Energy for Easy Profits

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New Mexico Attorney General Gary King has failed the people of New Mexico by opposing and obstructing energy efficiency and renewable energy development in our state.

The attorney general has joined with an industry group known as the New Mexico Industrial Energy Consumers, which counts Intel Corporation and the University of New Mexico among its members, in opposing good energy efficiency and renewable energy policies. By statute, the attorney general represents residential and small business ratepayers in public utility cases before the Public Regulation Commission. As such, the AG regularly intervenes in electric utility cases involving energy efficiency programs and renewable energy resources.

New Mexico’s Efficient Use of Energy Act recognizes that inexpensive energy efficiency measures save ratepayers money. Spending a small amount of money on incentives for customers to install energy-efficient appliances and devices avoids much larger expenditures on new power plants. Energy efficiency provides all customers a huge payback on any dollars spent by the utility. And this says nothing about the environmental benefits of energy efficiency over the increased emissions and impacts of power plants and transmission lines.

Yet the attorney general and New Mexico Industrial Energy Consumers have consistently worked to undercut the law by hoisting numerous legal and procedural barriers at the PRC and in court to utility-sponsored energy efficiency deployment.

Last year, the attorney general and New Mexico Industrial Energy Consumers supported a PNM rate increase of $85 million (which the commission reduced to $72 million), largely supporting PNM’s reliance on old and dirty fossil fuel resources. The AG has also agreed to allow PNM to automatically collect, without the need for a rate case, every dollar it spends to buy coal and natural gas.

In other words, while the AG assures PNM cost recovery of polluting resources, the AG does all it can to obstruct PNM’s ability to provide customers with the cheaper and cleaner energy efficiency that New Mexicans prefer.

But that’s not all. The AG and New Mexico Industrial Energy Consumers have also worked aggressively against renewable energy development in New Mexico. The Renewable Energy Act requires electric utilities to serve their customers with at least 10 percent renewable energy by 2010 and 15 percent by 2015. The Legislature recognized that renewable energy development brings significant economic benefits to New Mexico, preserves the state’s natural resources and provides energy independence and benefits to the environment.

New Mexico is perfectly poised for renewable energy development. We have some of the most robust wind and solar energy resources in the United States. …

And it is here that the AG and New Mexico Industrial Energy Consumers sacrifice the best interests of New Mexicans by continuously opposing renewable energy development in New Mexico and instead supporting policies that reduce the amount and diversity of renewable energy supplied by utilities to customers.

Using renewable energy instead of conventional electricity sources reduces health care costs and can help avoid climate change. Coal-fired power plants have caused hundreds of premature deaths and tens of thousands of heart attacks, bronchitis cases and asthma episodes.

Yet the AG and New Mexico Industrial Energy Consumers oppose efforts to develop clean, renewable New Mexico electricity for utility customers – hypocritically preferring the slightly lower rates associated with dirty coal plants.

We implore King and New Mexico industry to stop supporting our polluters and instead work to advance the clean energy future that New Mexicans prefer.

The Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy is a coalition of 10 local and regional environmental groups.