ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Thanks in no small part to our customers and many stakeholders, PNM has significantly expanded the amount of renewable energy and savings from energy efficiency into its overall energy mix.
Last year, customer participation in energy-efficiency programs saved 58,900 megawatt hours – enough power for 7,700 homes.
And, participation in our customer-owned solar program set new records. We added 840 new participants and 8 megawatts of capacity.
To put that in perspective, that’s more than the previous five years combined.
We also spent $85.6 million on five solar plants and a first-of-its-kind solar storage facility constructed in cooperation with numerous project participants, including Sandia National Laboratories and the University of New Mexico.
We expect that when we file our new energy-efficiency plans later this year that our energy-efficiency program will be well on track to meet the goals that take effect in 2014, and we are meeting the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard.
In light of this progress, it was surprising to read the opinion column on May 18 by Chuck Noble of the Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy.
The column implied that both the New Mexico attorney general and the New Mexico Industrial Energy Consumers are ignoring and even opposing clean energy.
While both have opposed us on many, many issues in the past – rate increases, for example – they currently support our filing to recover the cost of renewable energy investments in a manner that minimizes the bill impact to customers and allows PNM to make more timely investments in renewable energy. The coalition opposes that effort.
Sensible cost recovery of investments is a clear next step to ensuring growth of renewable energy in the state.
It’s also important to know that the savings from energy efficiency I mentioned is driven in large part by participation of industrial customers represented by the New Mexico Industrial Energy Consumers, including Intel and the University of New Mexico, both of which had significant projects to help us meet milestones toward the 2014 goal of the New Mexico Efficient Use of Energy Act.
We understand that some groups would like us to move completely away from fossil fuel energy resources and to rely completely on solar, wind and other renewable-energy resources. We also recognize that the transition away from fossil fuel has to balance reliability and customer costs along with the environmental impacts.
The reliability of renewable resources remains a huge issue until the problem of energy storage is addressed – something that we’re studying with our solar storage demonstration facility. The sun doesn’t always shine, nor does the wind always blow. Without storage, we must rely on traditional energy production to keep power reliable.
That alone adds to the cost impact for customers. While the wind and sun are free, wind turbines and solar panels are not, and when you add to those costs the expense of having backup power available, the bill impact for customers can quickly add up. It’s a delicate balance.
The challenges of maintaining this balance are significant, but I’m encouraged by the fact that we don’t have to face them alone. Our 2013 renewable energy plan recently filed with the N.M. Public Regulation Commission is a good example of the cooperative spirit that can move our state’s energy future forward.
The plan would almost double our solar energy capacity by adding 20 megawatts, and also would include a 20-year purchase agreement for the output of a 10-megawatt geothermal facility.
We listened to all voices at the table to develop that proposal, and incorporated them into the final proposal. We hope that the coalition, the attorney general, the industrial consumers and all organizations with an interest in our state’s energy future will help us support the plan as an important next step.