PNM: Careful balance of power choices

pnmmeetCopyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal

PNM Resources Chairman, President and CEO Pat Vincent Collawn told investors at an annual shareholders meeting Thursday that the company is carefully balancing efforts to add renewables to the grid with the need for system reliability and affordability.

“We believe measured but significant steps forward are a better approach than an all-or-nothing change that doesn’t fully consider the potential for unintended consequences,” Vincent-Collawn said. “We live in a poor state, and cost is a concern for most of those we serve. And while the costs are coming down, renewable generation technology is still expensive on a large scale, and too much can reduce reliability.”

Her comments were, in part, aimed at alternative energy advocates who want Public Service Company of New Mexico to use more renewables to replace coal-fired electricity at the San Juan generating Station near Farmington. PNM plans to shut half that plant to comply with federal haze regulations and then replace lost power with more natural gas and nuclear generation, plus some new solar capacity.

About two dozen renewable advocates protested outside PNM offices Downtown before the shareholders meeting to demand PNM procure more wind and solar as replacement energy.

“We want to convince PNM that investing in more fossil fuels is the wrong thing to do for the climate and for ratepayers,” said Tom Solomon of 350.org.

Vincent-Collawn said she admires the protestors’ passion, but a balanced approach is critical.

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“We all want the same thing – reliable, affordable and environmentally responsible energy,” she said. “We just disagree about the best ways to do it.”

The company is already adding a lot of alternative generation to comply with the state’s renewable portfolio standard.

PNM expects to have a total of 100 MW of solar generation on the grid by 2016. It also brought the state’s first geothermal electric plant online this year, and it plans to double its wind capacity in 2015.

Taken together, PNM’s renewable resources will produce enough electricity to power 136,000 average homes by next year.

Meanwhile, Vincent-Collawn said PNM’s finances are strong. Since last year, both Moody’s Investor Service and Standard & Poor’s have upgraded credit ratings for PNM Resources and its New Mexico and Texas utilities to investment grade with a positive outlook.

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