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CARLA J. SONNTAG: Renewable energy: Check the reality of truth and facts quirements are truly assessed

Attending a New Mexico Public Regulation Commission hearing on the renewable energy rules on Sept. 10, it quickly became apparent that those who ascribe to common-sense regulation in this state were grossly outnumbered.

Some of the testimony was enlightening as to where the conversation has gone:

Lorena, whose spirit name is “Lasita,” meaning “full of light,” spoke on behalf of the planet and pleaded the urgency of increased renewable energy usage.

Athena, “goddess of light,” informed us that “one hour of light brings enough energy to supply energy for all of humanity for an entire year.”

Jay, a retired law professor, told us there are absolutely no operating or maintenance costs for solar energy.

Adam spoke on behalf of the birds and wild animals, telling us we must maintain or increase (renewable energy regulatory) standards for them.

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And so it went for over two hours …

Then, there is the reality of truth and facts. This part of the conversation was largely missing, save for three individuals who spoke that day. Several others submitted written comments and were barred from speaking, even to provide rebuttal to the misconceptions and outright lies.

  • With New Mexico being at the top of the nationwide poverty level, the increased cost of renewable energy is making energy more expensive for everyone.  It is an even bigger burden for those who are low income or poverty-stricken.
  • Several states are now repealing renewable energy standards altogether due to the additional cost burden on ratepayers.
  • Unfortunately, there have been at least 67 eagles, and many other birds, killed by wind turbines over the past five years. This is obviously not always the best option for wildlife.
  • Mandated diversification requirements have further exacerbated the high cost of renewable energy because utility company executives are unable to find the most cost-effective means of compliance with renewable energy standards. These companies could do much better at managing power production, if left to the expertise of trained professionals, rather than by elected officials influenced by special-interest groups who put personal preference ahead of cost-effective decision-making.
  • Renewable energy is frequently more costly than other forms of power generation. But the bigger problem is that it is not dispatchable, meaning it is not always produced when needed. Because of that, back-up generation is always required. And this is yet another cost burden for ratepayers.
  • Regardless of the method of power production, there are operating and maintenance costs for every power-producing facility.

It’s time to change this conversation from one of wishful fantasy to one of stark reality.  Renewable energy can provide value to New Mexico if it is done with a true assessment of the requirements, reasonable regulation and consideration of the cost burden to ratepayers.

(Carla J. Sonntag is president of the New Mexico Business Coalition, a statewide nonprofit association that works to improve the business environment for companies and the quality of life for all New Mexicans.)

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