Santa Fe, N.M. (Dec. 8, 2021) — Conservation and community groups today voiced frustration and disappointment in response to the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission’s (PRC’s) vote to deny the merger of Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) with Avangrid, noting the commission’s decision means New Mexico loses hundreds of millions of dollars in jobs and climate change-fighting investments.
“This unfortunate decision by the NMPRC means our state will lose $300 million in benefits for ratepayers, communities, and workers, as well as the important commitments and capabilities Avangrid would bring to address climate change,” said Steve Michel, deputy director of Western Resource Advocates’ Clean Energy Program. “The commission’s refusal to hear directly from the many parties supporting the merger shows that commissioner minds were already made up. As it has done so many times in the past, the PRC’s decision again sends a harmful message that New Mexico is not friendly to business or clean energy development.”
“Indigenous and community groups worked hard to ensure that the merger would provide a pathway away from coal-fired power and the legacy of exploitation, and to allow for a just transition for the Four Corners region,” said Kyle Tisdel, attorney with Western Environmental Law Center. “This included $12.5 million of shareholder funding that was aimed to support Indigenous community projects, as well as a commitment for at least 200 megawatts of renewables and storage on the Navajo Nation. At a time when we should be charting a course to the future, this decision represents a significant step backward for the state and long-impacted frontline communities.”
“We are disappointed that the expansion of energy efficiency for limited income residents and arrears forgiveness which we have worked long and hard for will now disappear,” said Ona Porter, president and CEO of Prosperity Works. “Not only would these measures have taken a significant bite out of poverty, they would reduce critical climate impacts and increase the health, safety, and comfort in the homes of our most vulnerable residents.”
“The stipulation provided hundreds of millions of dollars in shareholder funds for customers and the environment. No other legal avenue exists to extract shareholder dollars for New Mexicans to conserve energy in their homes, to New Mexicans with arrearages due to the pandemic, or to provide valuable apprenticeships,” said Cara Lynch, attorney for the Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy (CCAE). “Moreover, the risks of Avangrid ownership of PNM are no different than the risks of any monopoly utility; they are the same risks that exist under PNM ownership.”
Had the merger been approved, New Mexicans would have stood to receive significant benefits — all financed by Avangrid shareholders. However, the PRC’s decision today strips those benefits away from New Mexicans. The lost benefits include:
- $67 million in rate reductions, almost all of which would have gone to residential customers and small businesses;
- $25 million in economic development funding;
- $15 million for energy efficiency that would have helped low-income customers reduce energy consumption and the financial burden of high electricity bills;
- $12.5 million for Indigenous community groups in the Four Corners region;
- $10 million which, combined with federal monies, would have completely paid off COVID-delinquent electricity bills and avoided thousands of customer disconnections;
- $2 million that would have extended new electric service for low-income and Indigenous residents in remote areas;
- $2 million for scholarships and apprenticeships in Albuquerque; and
- A new minority- and women-owned business procurement program.
Avangrid had also promised to create 150 new high-paying jobs over three years, generating an estimated $200 million in local economic benefits. Avangrid’s commitment to build 200 megawatts of new solar power on Navajo land would have provided important economic development for the tribe as coal plants in the region are curtailed or closed.
Moreover, as part of the merger settlement, Avangrid and PNM had pledged to take several important steps to accelerate the fight against climate change. Those measures included creating a task force to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation as early as 2035, 10 years earlier than New Mexico law requires. The merger would also have aligned the company’s management hierarchy and incentives with these carbon reduction goals, to ensure the utility’s actions were aligned with its promises.