By Mona Blaber,
Chapter communications coordinator
Late last year, PNM filed a case seeking to increase electricity rates by an average of about 14% — right on the heels of another rate increase approved by the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission in August.
PNM’s application included requests for spending on large capital projects at the San Juan and Four Corners coal plants. These coal plants are becoming increasingly uncompetitive compared to other available sources of generation, such as wind and solar. Indeed, in March, PNM announced that its latest planning studies show that the San Juan plant will be uneconomic to run past 2022 (see related article).
Despite these clear economic signals, not to mention the harmful public health and environmental consequences caused by these two coal plants, PNM continues to spend tens — and sometimes hundreds — of millions of dollars on its aging coal plants.
In January, Sierra Club intervened in the rate case. The club’s attorneys intend to review PNM’s continued spending on San Juan and Four Corners, and, where appropriate, they will request that the Public Regulation Commission make sure that customers do not have to pay for costly coal-plant expenditures that could have been avoided.
PNM is also requesting changes to the way it charges and collects money from residential customers. Following a nationwide trend of utilities trying to limit the amount that customers can control their own bills, PNM is requesting an increase in its monthly “fixed charge” from $7 to $13.77. This request follows quickly behind last year’s increase from $5 to $7.
These charges penalize energy-efficient ratepayers and customers who invest money and effort in conservation because they push a larger portion of their bills into a “fixed” and unavoidable monthly charge. The charge structure also rewards high-use energy hogs by lowering the per-kwh cost of energy.
These are the wrong incentives, and Sierra Club plans to support our allies who are challenging these changes. Sierra Club will submit expert testimony to the PRC in May, and evidentiary hearings will likely occur this summer.