Camilla Feibelman’s (Sept. 8) op-ed piece, “We can innovate to meet climate change,” earnestly called New Mexicans forth to innovate to address the local and global challenges posed by climate change. As a parent and now grandfather of three young ones, I think about this every day – times 488,608. That’s the number of children and grandchildren under the age of 18 that live in New Mexico and receive electricity from PNM.
I fully agree with Feibelman’s closing statement, “We must innovate and collaborate” to meet the challenges before us. It’s clear that we want the same thing: a clean-energy future. We agree renewable resources like solar and wind are critical elements of this goal, but sustainable carbon reduction requires more.
Through 2017, PNM Energy Efficiency Programs have helped to reduce customer electricity use by nearly 2.6 billion kilowatt hours. That’s enough electricity to power 500,000 average homes for more than 9 years. This effort has kept an estimated 1.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide out of the air, which is the equivalent of taking more than 400,000 gas-fueled cars off the road for a year.
PNM closed two units of the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station, and if approved by the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission, will shut down the remaining two units by 2022. By 2030, PNM expects to achieve a reduction of approximately 60 percent in CO2 emissions from 2012 levels. This would far exceed the reductions that the United States voluntarily committed to in the original Paris Accord – designed to limit global warming to 2 degrees centigrade by 2030 – through its planned implementation of the Clean Power Plan.
In addition, PNM plans to quit coal altogether by 2031. This will help achieve a 70 percent reduction in carbon emissions. We plan to replace the coal generation with a responsible mix of more solar, wind, natural gas and existing nuclear energy. This is where we respectfully differ from Feibelman’s thoughts, which do not include nuclear.
A new MIT study concluded nuclear is “among the technologies needed to help achieve steep mid-century emissions cuts that are consistent with limiting long-term temperature rise.” That is due to several factors. Solar and wind energy are available only when the sun shines and the wind blows. We need a reliable generation source to fill the gaps. Battery storage on a large enough scale to ensure electricity is delivered 24/7 is not yet feasible for PNM. Nuclear energy is the only carbon-free resource available right now around the clock. Currently nuclear is more cost-effective than combining renewable energy with large-scale battery storage.
We agree with Fiebelman that solar and wind energy are integral to the clean-energy future we all envision. PNM has 18 large-scale solar facilities around the state, and we’re adding more. If approved by the Public Regulation Commission, PNM will add 100 megawatts of solar energy to the system to serve the Facebook data center. That project is also creating an estimated 400 new jobs and tax revenue for local communities.
All of this cannot be accomplished alone. That’s why we regularly sit down with environmental leaders and community members to learn how we can better work together on behalf of New Mexico. We are working diligently to learn and understand what others truly believe and want when it comes to energy. We are hearing, loudly and clearly, a strong desire to come together and listen, discuss and collaborate. And that’s just what is happening! An Environmental Leadership Forum is being planned right now for early 2019.
In closing, as a father, grandfather, and as senior VP for public policy at PNM, it is my hope that the thoughtful leaders and community members of New Mexico and PNM will find even more ways to come together on behalf of our children and future generations. Yes, we can innovate to meet climate change. Let’s do it together.