Gary K. King
Monday, June 25, 2012
RENEWABLE ENERGY FOR NEW MEXICANS
I support alternative and green and renewable energy and I want utility bills as low as possible for New Mexico families. Therefore, I strongly believe recent claims made by the Coalition for Clean, Affordable Energy in a newspaper guest column are misleading and erroneous in their portrayal of the Attorney General’s position on utility efficiency and renewable programs. Here are the verifiable facts which, unfortunately, do not seem to get in the way of claims made by the CCAE and others.
By law the Attorney General is required to represent residential and small business utility customers before the Public Regulation Commission. We do this in large part by attempting to minimize increases in utility rates and guaranteeing that costs for programs such as efficiency and renewable energy are just and reasonable.
During my term of office the AGO has never opposed a utility efficiency plan. In fact, in the last year I have supported the annual renewable plans of the Public Service Company of New Mexico and the Southwestern Public Service Company. I also supported the implementation by PNM of a rate rider to collect the costs of renewable energy.
What my office has not done, however, is blindly support renewable or efficiency proposals made by a utility or intervenor. When the three investor-owned electricity utilities and various intervenors, including CCAE, agreed to an artificially high rate to be charged customers to make up for utility revenues lost to efficiency programs, I opposed it and appealed the rate to the NM Supreme Court and prevailed – the Court ruling that the rate was neither cost-based nor supported by substantial evidence in the record. The facts show it would have earned at least one utility three times its lost costs.
As Attorney General I have acted as an honest "broker" in renewable cases by protecting consumers from exorbitant costs. Renewable resources may someday supply a substantial portion of a utility’s generation mix, however, neither wind nor solar generated electricity can currently provide reliable energy twenty-four hours a day. And yet the cost of solar energy is currently many times the cost of other fuel resources. Because the cost of renewable energy is decreasing annually, there is every reason to phase it in over time as prices drop – as the Renewable Energy Act provides. This approach was supported by my office when we advocated for legislation in 2007 to increase the percentage of required renewable sources to meet New Mexico energy needs.
While CCAE is not charged with keeping electricity energy affordable nor is it mandated by law to represent all utility consumers, as Attorney General I must seek to balance the interests of various utility consumers in New Mexico while ensuring a reliable electricity supply at reasonable rates. As the attorney for the State of New Mexico, I cannot subscribe to the kind of single issue advocacy expressed by the CCAE.
The CCAE claims also appear to have been intentionally drafted to mislead citizens on my personal record with regard to environmental protection in New Mexico. As a Legislator, I was responsible for the passage of many laws that are protective of our air and water, including; The Mine Reclamation Act, The Solid Waste Act, tire recycling, battery recycling and conversion of the State vehicle fleet to alternative fuels. While Attorney General, my office was responsible for the reversal of an EPA decision to license the Desert Rock Power Plant (a new coal fired generating plant in McKinley County) because it had failed to consider adverse environmental impacts of plant emissions on New Mexico residents.
Personal attacks, such as that utilized by CCAE and others, do not forward the discussion of how New Mexicans can have access to the cost effective, reliable energy supplies necessary to build our future economy while maintaining or improving our air and water quality in any meaningful way. However, I will continue to do my utmost to carry out my office’s statutory mandate and meet the expectation of New Mexico citizens that their Attorney General works to minimize increases in utility rates and ensure that costs for programs such as efficiency and renewable energy are just and reasonable. My agenda is, and always has been, to find a balanced approach that serves the bests interests of New Mexico consumers.