PNM-Avangrid merger denial was one of PRC's worst decisions ever - Albuquerque Journal

PNM-Avangrid merger denial was one of PRC’s worst decisions ever

Suppose I told you that:

  • Your home’s electricity would cost 5% less for three years, saving you $126.
  • Your power supply would emit zero greenhouse gases by 2035.
  • Your pandemic-delinquent electric bill would be forgiven.
  • If you live in a rural area and don’t have electricity, $2 million would be used to get you service.
  • PNM customers would be eligible for a total of $15 million in energy efficiency upgrades.
  • If you live on Navajo land, you would see $300 million of renewable energy investments.
  • New Mexico will get $25 million for economic development and the Navajo Nation $12.5 million.
  • If you work for PNM, your job would be protected for three years.
  • If you’re a PNM customer, your reliability would be guaranteed with strict requirements and penalties.
  • There would be 150 new, high-paying, jobs in New Mexico.
  • And none of these things would cost you a dime.

Well, thanks to our Public Regulation Commission, you’ll see none of this. On Dec. 8 the PRC denied Avangrid’s offer to merge with PNM, which included all these benefits and many more. Only one out of 24 parties in the case opposed the merger. In its zeal to deny the Avangrid/PNM proposal, the PRC even refused to hear directly from those not opposed to the merger. Why? One PRC member said she didn’t want to waste the time, and others worried they might be convinced to do the wrong thing. Seriously?

So, why did they reject the merger? According to the PRC, it was because Avangrid was a bad actor. In fact, the PRC seemed intent on denying the merger regardless and created a long list of excuses to do so. Here are three the PRC relied on most, and why they make no sense:

  • Avangrid utilities provided unreliable service back East. In fact, the service issues were caused by record storms driven by climate change. Had the merger been approved, it would have specifically addressed our climate crisis. Avangrid’s service record back East was typical of other Eastern utilities, and in many cases better. And importantly, Avangrid’s experience with severe weather could have been useful to New Mexico as it continues to deal with climate change.
  • There’s a corporate espionage case in Spain and some officials from Iberdrola, Avangrid’s parent company, are being investigated. According to the PRC, this shows Avangrid’s poor corporate culture. But Avangrid itself brought this to the PRC’s attention, and the PRC acknowledges much of what’s being investigated is legal in the U.S. The PRC relied on secret information to support its conclusions. Still, after years of investigation, no Iberdrola or Avangrid official has been charged with anything.
  • Avangrid would put its profits over the interest of consumers. Really, that’s a surprise? That’s why we have regulators. Perhaps instead of denying the merger and its benefits, the PRC could just do its job.

The PRC’s merger denial is one of the worst decisions I’ve seen in nearly 40 years appearing before the PRC. Except for Commissioner Joseph M. Maestas, who would have heard from parties and tried to make the merger work, the PRC again showed voters were right to reform this destructive agency. Unfortunately, the reforms don’t start until 2023, one year too late.


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