PNM forced to justify nuclear buy

By Mona Blaber, Chapter Communications Director

PNM is hitting speed bumps in its efforts to recover its costs from a nuclear-energy purchase and raise customer rates.

The PNM rate case, under consideration now at the state Public Regulation Commission, contains both positive and negative components for the climate and ratepayers.

The utility wants to raise the base service fee from $5 monthly to $13, which would discourage energy efficiency, hurt low-income ratepayers and penalize solar owners, who would see the return on their investment decrease.

PNM has also proposed adding to rates its 2015 purchase of 64 megawatts at Arizona’s Palo Verde nuclear plant. But PNM has not established that the nuclear capacity is needed or that the price it paid was justified.

Hearings on the rate case were held in April, but the commission reopened hearings in June to get additional evidence on the value of the Palo Verde power and whether PNM’s proposed rate for its customers is fair.

In the June hearings, an expert witness for the attorney general argued that PNM paid too much for the nuclear power, saying “In no way, shape or form did they justify the market value.”

After the new hearings, PRC staff withdrew its support for PNM’s rate proposal based on the new testimony, and the attorney for Bernalillo County and the city of Albuquerque said many of PNM’s purchases and investments appeared imprudent and unnecessary.

The case has yet to go before commissioners. Many aspects of the case will have a big impact on our climate, including rate structures that could encourage energy efficiency and solar and a decision that could make it harder to transition from coal-fired San Juan Generation Station in the near term.

How to get involved

To learn more about the case and send a message to the PRC, please go to www.riograndesierraclub.org/pnmratecase. Want to get active on PNM’s plans for energy and rates in the future? Write to me at riogrande.chapter@sierraclub.org.

PNM is also beginning its “Integrated Resource Plan” process, a long-term plan for its energy future, which is likely to inform the 2018 proceedings on whether to keep San Juan coal plant open past 2022. We will keep you updated on opportunities to participate and how we can influence PNM’s energy future.

Image from Affordable Solar Energy.

PNM forced to justify nuclear buy