New Mexico approves 1,200 MW of wind energy

By Mona Blaber, Chapter communications

New Mexico’s Public Regulation Commission on March 21 approved Southwestern Public Service’s massive 1.2-gigawatt wind-energy project in New Mexico and west Texas.

Commissioners had expressed skepticism about a ratemaking mechanism the company proposed as part of the project, but our Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy attorney and other parties developed a compromise with SPS, and Rio Grande Chapter activists called and emailed commissioners to urge passage. All five commissioners voted to accept the compromise. Your input makes a big difference in cases like this.

According to SPS, this project will bring the renewable portion of its New Mexico retail electricity sales to a whopping 49%, if the utility is required to retire the Renewable Energy Certificates associated with the production. This will be an issue in SPS’s upcoming renewable-portfolio case, where your engagement may be needed again.

SPS, which serves southeastern New Mexico, proposed the wind projects last year, saying they will save ratepayers billions of dollars. The company didn’t actually need the capacity; the facilities — two in New Mexico and one in West Texas — were proposed purely to save money. Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy (of which Sierra Club is a member), the attorney general and Western Resource Advocates struck a deal with SPS to prioritize New Mexico contractors and workers in the New Mexico project, so it will bring jobs and investment to New Mexico in addition to climate progress.

Unfortunately, outcomes haven’t been as positive in efforts to get SPS to drop a fee imposed on ratepayerss with solar rooftops. The Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy and Vote Solar moved to dismiss the tariffs as being unlawful, but the hearing officer and commission denied the motion. The issue will now be considered in a pending SPS rate case. The ruling sets a bad precedent that could allow PNM and El Paso Electric to charge solar users more than other customers. CCAE may appeal.

New Mexico approves 1,200 MW of wind energy