Claims of Energy Indifference Valid

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On May 18 the Journal published an op-ed from Chuck Noble of the Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy. That op-ed critiqued the attorney general and New Mexico Industrial Energy Consumers for their anti-renewable energy and anti-energy efficiency agendas.

On May 31 the Journal published a response from Attorney General Gary King denying those criticisms. On Sunday PNM also responded, citing the AG’s and the Industrial Energy Consumers’ recent support for renewable energy cost recovery.

In my opinion, Noble’s critique is valid.

I have worked in New Mexico as a public utility consumer and environmental advocate for nearly 30 years. For five of those years I served as an assistant attorney general, representing residential utility customers. For 17 of those years I represented industrial consumers of electricity and natural gas. I have known King for many years and take him at his word that he supports environmental protections in general, and renewable energy and energy efficiency in particular.

Nevertheless, and unfortunately, King has assigned a staff to oversee electric utility issues in New Mexico that I believe is philosophically opposed to utility development of renewable energy and energy efficiency and, as Noble says, has done all it can to obstruct and diminish those clean energy resources in the state.

The AG’s staff has been particularly cozy with New Mexico industry, filing numerous joint positions, pleadings and briefs with Industrial Energy Consumers in opposition to renewables and efficiency. The renewable energy cost recovery issue that PNM referred to provides a perfect case-in-point.

In that cost recovery case, the AG and Industrial Energy Consumers support an outcome that would have residential customers subsidize $1.5 million of industrial customer renewable energy costs each year. In their zeal to make renewables look bad, the AG and Industrial Energy Consumers also insist that these inflated costs be highlighted on each customer’s bill as a separate line item (even though the cost of every other resource – coal, gas, nuclear – is hidden in the bill).

The idea is clearly to create a renewable energy target for customer dissatisfaction.

To make matters worse, that line item shows only the gross cost, not the net cost, of renewable energy.

And finally, to top off their agenda, the AG and Industrial Energy Consumers endorse a recovery mechanism that would have residential customers pay 44 percent of the costs of renewable energy, but receive only 39 percent of the benefits (reduced fuel costs at power plants), while industrial customers pay just 13 percent of the costs, and enjoy 17 percent of the benefits.

Regrettably, this has not been the only instance of the AG showing his disdain for clean energy. The AG has routinely opposed renewable energy procurements pursuant to New Mexico’s Renewable Energy Act, has opposed commission rules that would foster diverse renewable energy development and, along with Industrial Energy Consumers, has insisted on near-impossible hurdles for energy efficiency cost recovery.

New Mexico Industrial Energy Consumers’ position on energy efficiency is particularly hypocritical given that two of its members, Intel and the University of New Mexico, are major beneficiaries of energy efficiency funding. …

In short, in my opinion, the AG has not represented the interests he is charged with representing. Rather, he has allowed his staff to pursue an agenda against clean energy – contrary to state policy.

Renewable energy and energy efficiency protect our health, advance our state’s economy and help preserve the beautiful Western environment that we all cherish.

Like Noble, I urge King to take charge of clean energy issues in his office, and assure that what I believe are his good intentions are carried out by his staff.