NM should embrace Avangrid

Avangrid is a U.S. subsidiary of one of the largest utility companies in the world – a well-respected and forward-thinking employer that is driving a clean-energy revolution. Shouldn’t we in New Mexico want a front-row seat and to play a leading role? The proposed merger between PNM and Avangrid will ensure our state is able to build an innovative and expansive network of renewable energy production, generating cleaner and cleaner power on a remarkably large scale and at a remarkably fast pace. As a state with the resources and potential to lead in nearly all forms of energy production, we should want this merger and should welcome Avangrid with open arms.

The Avangrid/PNM merger will create at least 150 high-paying new jobs in New Mexico, with an average salary of $90,000. In Connecticut, in an identical initial projection, the company ended up creating more than 400 jobs. We could see the same situation here.

Ratepayers will receive $73 million in benefits as a result of this merger, including $50 million in direct rate credits over the next three years, $6 million in forgiveness of ratepayers’ past due bills, $2 million to provide electricity to new customers in rural New Mexico, and $15 million for low-income energy efficiency programs and investments.

Avangrid intends to play a strong role in building our local economy, contributing $7.5 million to economic development projects over the next three years, as well as improving street lighting and building a Southeast Albuquerque substation that will enhance electric service to the Sunport, residences, businesses and exciting projected private development in the area. In the Northwest part of our state, there is an understandable concern about what the move to cleaner energy sources over time will mean to its economy and workers. Rightly so, Avangrid will spend $12.5 million to help impacted indigenous groups in the Four Corners and has committed to working with the Navajo Nation to build large renewable energy and/or energy storage projects of no less than 200 megawatts on Navajo land. Much more will need to be done, but Avangrid has shown it is more than willing to do its part.

It is important for us all to remember that utilities are highly regulated. They cannot ignore state laws, damage the environment, or raise rates without tremendous scrutiny and a requirement to provide meticulous justification. Rattling sabers and claiming impending doom as a result of this merger – as some have done – is neither valid nor fair. Indeed, it represents a kind of hyperbolic response that is likely unhelpful to our state’s efforts to continue attracting innovative large companies to New Mexico.

Avangrid moving to our community is a good thing. It will help diversify our economy, generally speaking, and especially diversify and expand our energy economy, in particular. We should be excited about the possibility of leading on multiple energy fronts, and at the Chamber, we stand ready to welcome Avangrid and help it succeed for the benefit of all New Mexicans.

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