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Get the facts before pulling the plug on the grid

PNM uses solar panels to produce electricity south of the Reeves Generating Station in Albuquerque. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)

PNM uses solar panels to produce electricity south of the Reeves Generating Station in Albuquerque. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE, N.M. — The late U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan said “everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” That is especially relevant in regard to Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales’ suggestion that Santa Fe should consider creating its own electric utility.

Some supporters of municipalization selectively cherry pick and edit the facts to boost their position, while attacking PNM’s proposal to retire two units at the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station and replace the power with electricity from cleaner resources.

As a member of the City of Santa Fe’s Climate Change Task Force, I’d like to share the facts, which are clearly supported in public filings with the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission. Ironically, these initiatives support the city’s goal of reducing its environmental impact, supporting local business and community organizations, and ensuring a reliable and affordable source of electricity to support the community’s future.

The PNM plan will decrease the company’s use of coal by 30 percent, reduce seven different emissions, including greenhouse gases, by about 50 percent and cut the plant’s water usage in half. Those are significant cuts.

Opponents don’t mention that part of PNM’s San Juan plan includes adding more solar generation on top of the significant increase the company is already making, and more natural gas, both of which will create local construction jobs.

Or that we will significantly increase the wind energy on our system starting in January and that, early this year, we began providing clean energy from the state’s first geothermal generation facility. And, by the end of 2015, PNM will have invested about $270 million in solar energy and have enough renewable energy resources to power about 150,000 average homes.

We also continually invest in programs to help customers reduce their energy usage – more than $100 million since 2007. Our customers, including the City of Santa Fe, have responded enthusiastically. Since 2007, customers have saved more than 1 billion kilowatt hours of electricity and received more than $34 million in rebates.

It sounds great when some proponents say, “The sun is free. We can have a lot more solar and wind.” They don’t mention what it costs to build and maintain those facilities, or where you get electricity the majority of the time when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow. PNM provides power whenever our customers need it. It’s all about balance. We act responsibly to keep the lights on while minimizing the cost. And our customers clearly tell us that keeping costs down is very important to them.

Jobs? PNM employs about 1,500 New Mexicans, many of whom are dedicated to serving Santa Fe customers. We’re not some “far away” corporation. We’re your friends and neighbors. We’re raising our families here, we volunteer in our community and, like you, we want New Mexico to succeed.

In 2013, the company paid $5.1 million in taxes in the City of Santa Fe and Santa Fe County, spent approximately $3.4 million in support of local businesses and business organizations, and invested more than $8.2 million in electric infrastructure and reliability projects in the Santa Fe area.

Through the PNM Resources Foundation and corporate giving, we contributed more than $200,000 through programs like the Reduce Your Use Grants and the 30th Anniversary Environmental Grants. And our employees volunteer hundreds of hours of their time to help local organizations.

PNM has been serving our customers for nearly 100 years. We have the experience to provide electricity while balancing reliability, affordability and protecting the environment. In any discussion about energy, it’s important to consider the facts, and not be misled by myths from anyone pushing a costly and divisive agenda.

Amy Miller is director of community, environment and local government at PNM, and is a member of the Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales’ Climate Change Task Force.