The Energy Transition Act needs fixing - Albuquerque Journal

The Energy Transition Act needs fixing

We supported the Energy Transition Act (ETA) because it would transition PNM’s reliance on polluting coal plants to renewables. This was a crucial step in moving to clean energy. We are thrilled that the ETA has begun the important work of transitioning our state from fossil fuels to renewable energy and we are pleased and committed to continue to support that process. Now, we are seeking surgical amendments to protect ratepayers. Why?

1) to remove the guarantee that PNM gets 100% costs from ratepayers whenever it closes a plant or its portion of a plant;

2) to reinstate New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (PRC) oversight for utility plant closures; and

3) to reinstate conforming legal deadlines consistent with New Mexico court rules.

The ETA’s principal accomplishments were the closure of PNM’s coal-fired San Juan Generating Station, and updating the Renewable Energy Act and the Air Quality Control Act to make needed progress on our climate crisis. How this affected ratepayers was a legitimate subject of debate. However, we and the governor believed that this was a way to expedite the closing of the coal(-fired plant). …

We were unaware that the ETA, in language tucked into the 82-page bill, effectively removed PRC authority to oversee the amount of compensation PNM would receive from its customers when it closes its old plants, and that this deregulation provision may apply not only to its coal plants but to its gas and nuclear plants as well.

The costs imposed on ratepayers for all plants will be substantial, but the costs associated with the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station could be astronomical. Nuclear energy has become very expensive when compared with the cost of renewable energy, therefore Palo Verde’s closure may be imminent.

Whatever PNM decides to claim as the “value” it will lose when Palo Verde closes, and, more ominously, all of its decommissioning/clean-up costs, the ETA may shift them to the ratepayers, and if so this amount cannot be modified whatsoever. This puts PNM in charge of setting its own rates, without PRC ability to adjust those charges even if they are not fair, just or reasonable.

The PRC’s history of supervising plant closures is one of striking a balance between a utility’s desires and the interests of ratepayers. With the ETA, PNM escaped this balancing process and may get another one-sided deal when Palo Verde closes. This could easily result in an unfair, multi-billion dollar impact on ratepayers.

PNM apparently is interpreting the ETA to be expansively interpreted. PNM stated in a recent PRC hearing that the ETA’s language applies to nuclear and gas as it does to coal. That was news to us.

Under Article IV, Sec. 16 of our Constitution, the title of the ETA should have provided notice of the inclusion of nuclear and gas facilities. … The ETA’s title was almost two pages long, and referred to coal-fired facilities six times, but neither its title nor its text made any mention of nuclear or gas. Yet at Section 31C, the bill categorically forbids the PRC from “disallowing” PNM from recovering what it claims as any costs in PNM’s rate base prior to 2015.

A dozen consumer, environmental justice, faith and health organizations support an amendment to the ETA to return authority to the PRC to determine how much money would be fair for PNM to receive from ratepayers when it closes plants.

The ETA should provide both environmental protection and consumer protection; it succeeds in the former and fails on the latter. The ETA is the only securitization law in the country that forbids regulatory oversight. The PRC has the history and expertise to examine the value of utility investments and whether outstanding costs should be absorbed by the shareholders or paid by the ratepayers or shared. Removing PRC supervision to protect the public in all plant closings was not in the title of the bill, and we did not understand this when we voted for the ETA.

We believe that the authority should be returned to the PRC, and that is what our bill does. The economic tool of securitization is maintained, the renewable portfolio standards are maintained, and consumer protections are upheld. Please support corporate accountability and ratepayer relief and contact your representatives to ask them to support needed amendments to the ETA.

Home » Opinion » Guest Columns » The Energy Transition Act needs fixing

Insert Question Legislature form in Legis only stories




Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

ABQjournal can get you answers in all pages

 

Questions about the Legislature?
Albuquerque Journal can get you answers
Email addresses are used solely for verification and to speed the verification process for repeat questioners.
1
SITE Santa Fe awarded National Endowment for the Arts ...
Arts
The grant will support the upcoming ... The grant will support the upcoming exhibition, 'Going With the Flow: Art, Actions and Western Waters,' opening on April 14.
2
Santa Fe student selected to magazine's Junior Council
Arts
Viviana Garcia-Vélez, 11, chosen out of ... Viviana Garcia-Vélez, 11, chosen out of hundreds of applicants by weekly youth news publication The Week Junior.
3
Xeric Garden Club to host lecture
Arts
The Xeric Garden Club of Albuquerque ... The Xeric Garden Club of Albuquerque will hosting Laurel Ladwig as she speaks on the topic 'Share Space with Wildlife with a Backyard Refuge.'
4
The nitty gritty of Roth IRA conversions
ABQnews Seeker
Roth IRAs offer many benefits over ... Roth IRAs offer many benefits over traditional IRAs. I have written previous articles, encouraging readers to build their Roth IRAs through contributions or conversions. ...
5
Laguna Pueblo starts work on affordable housing project
ABQnews Seeker
The Laguna #3 affordable housing development, ... The Laguna #3 affordable housing development, which is set to complete in mid-2024, will be able to house 20 families.
6
'More like a home' than a hospital: Presbyterian's new ...
ABQnews Seeker
Departments and floors of the $170 ... Departments and floors of the $170 million tower will be opening on a weekly basis over the next two months.
7
Los Lunas seeks more funds for I-25 project
ABQnews Seeker
The village is about $51M short ... The village is about $51M short of fully funding the $141M phase
8
New cannabis delivery service enters ABQ market
ABQnews Seeker
Priscotty made its first delivery earlier ... Priscotty made its first delivery earlier this month
9
Sandia Area Federal Credit Union names new CFO
ABQnews Seeker
The announcement was made on Tuesday The announcement was made on Tuesday