Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
July 29, 2020

AZTEC — The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission unanimously approved a plan that would replace the electricity that Public Service Company of New Mexico currently receives from the San Juan Generating Station with 100% renewable energy.

These renewable resources include solar arrays and battery storage that will be located in San Juan, McKinley and Rio Arriba counties.

Commissioner Valerie Espinoza made the motion to approve the order drafted by general counsel Michael Smith. That motion was seconded by Commissioner Cynthia Hall.

Smith said the portfolio meets all the criteria specified in the Energy Transition Act, including locating 431 megawatts of replacement power in the Central Consolidated School District boundaries and investing $447 million into that school district in addition to the investment into surrounding communities in neighboring counties. There will be another $430 million of investment into Rio Arriba and McKinley counties. In addition, Smith said it has the least environmental impact and is cost-effective and reliable.

Espinoza called it a “win-win” scenario, something Commissioner Jeff Byrd disagreed with. Byrd said he still has questions about how reliable the 100% renewable replacement will be, but he still supported the plan.

“I do believe that this is the best bad idea that we have,” Byrd said.

The ruling came a little more than a year after PNM filed an application that called for a combination of natural gas in San Juan County and solar arrays with battery storage in McKinley and Rio Arriba counties.

“We are reviewing all options to implement this decision while maintaining reliable power for our more than 530,000 customers,” the utility said in an email statement following the PRC meeting on July 29. “PNM is focused on strengthening our infrastructure to support the company’s transformation to a 100 percent clean energy portfolio. We are continuing to examine all options to optimize our future energy mix and invest in our infrastructure to ensure the reliability of new energy resources we integrate into our grid.”

The 100% renewable portfolio that was approved by the PRC on July 29 was proposed by Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy.

The San Juan Generating Station is pictured, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, from the San Juan Mine.
Commission Chairwoman Theresa Becenti-Aguilar said the decision was a hard one. The decision leaves the door open for Enchant Energy to move forward with retrofitting the power plant with carbon capture technology.

“That’s the part that I like the most,” Becenti-Aguilar said.

She said her constituents in northwest New Mexico deserve a paycheck.

Enchant Energy Chief Operating Officer Peter Mandelstam praised the decision.

“Today’s unanimous vote after a very long and thorough process is a victory for New Mexico and the environment and Enchant Energy is very gratified that several of the commissioners in their remarks specifically said that they premised their positive vote on Enchant’s ability to move forward,” he said.

Farmington Mayor Nate Duckett said he was excited that the decision allows the city to move forward with its partnership with Enchant Energy to keep the San Juan Generating Station open after 2022.

He also viewed the solar array that will be built in San Juan County under the approved portfolio as a win for the community because it brings in temporary jobs as well as investment.

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