The Conservation Beat
10:04 am
Tue May 1, 2012

PNM Striving to Hit Future Targets for Renewables

New Mexico’s largest electric utility says even though it has not yet met a two-year old renewable energy requirement…it is on track to meet future goals

Under the state’s renewable portfolio standard, investor-owned utilities were supposed to get ten percent of their electricity from clean energy sources by 2010.  Of the state’s three such utilities, PNM is the only one not currently meeting that mandate.  The target jumps to 15 percent in 2015.

Under a plan submitted to the state Public Regulation Commission yesterday, PNM says it will fulfill all state requirements for renewables by 2014 or sooner and still be on track to hit the 15 percent target on time.  

"We are very focused on diong that," says spokesperson Susan Sponar. "When we planned this portfolio, one of the things we kept in mind was this next jump.  So, for example, two of the new facilities we're planning to build, we might simply expand them."

PNM’s plan calls for doubling its own solar capacity while continuing to purchase renewable energy certificates from other solar and wind producers.  The company would also enter into a 20 year agreement to buy electricity from a geothermal plant slated to open in 2014. 

Under the plan, PNM would also continue its program for customers who want to install solar panels on their rooftops. Nine megawatts of solar capacity would be set aside for the customer program, which would continue through 2016 if approved by regulators.

Ron Darnell, PNM's senior vice president of public policy, said the plan involves a blend of different generation resources.

"We've taken input from the solar community and others as we prepared this proposal because we know how important our customer-installed program has been to solar businesses in New Mexico," he said in a statement.

Environmentalists have been critical of PNM, saying the utility has not invested enough in renewable energy, a claim PNM disputes.  The company has long said it is limited by a state-imposed spending cap that aims to protect customers.

The cost for customers of complying with state mandates in 2013 is estimated at more than $19 million.

Costs for renewable energy procurements made in 2011 and 2012 have yet to hit customer bills. PNM said the average customer could see an increase of about $1.40 as early as August.

As for the customer-owned solar program, the price PNM would pay customers for renewable energy credits, or RECs, associated with the electricity generated by their solar panels would drop by a half-cent every six months for smaller systems and 5 cents for larger systems to a floor of 2.5 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Customers would have eight-year contracts to participate and would continue to benefit from net-metering.