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Replacement Power Plan questionable

Besides threatening a livable future and strapping New Mexicans with an unnecessary financial burden in merely trying to keep our homes comfortable and alight, PNM’s Replacement Power Plan (RPP) Proposal has been awash with questionable ethics, a lack of transparency, and a demonstration of its lack of technological understanding of renewable energy. Following a several month history of hiding and misrepresenting figures and misleading the public across the board in presenting their plan, the state Public Regulatory Commission (PRC) generously gave PNM an extended deadline to modify their proposal by Aug. 1, with the stipulation that the process be completely transparent this time.

With righteous indignation, PNM filed a motion to the PRC requesting confidentiality on much of the documentation regarding its coal deal with the “captive” San Juan coal mine, claiming they had a right to “trade secrets,” one of its many little secrets driving up utility rates in their Plan.

It’s time to say “enough” to the last desperate gasps from a dying fossil fuel industry. Most New Mexicans seem to be more than ready to become the poster child for powering with renewables. PNM’s plan is unacceptable and we need a new plan that works toward a healthy, renewable- energy future at rates New Mexicans can afford.

Debaura James,

Silver City

Retired Educator, Aldo Leopold Charter School



Bears shouldn’t be fought by hand

Re: Predator Alert feature. The NM Department of Game and Fish is remiss in its advice about handling a black bear attack. The write “fight back using anything at your disposal, such as rocks, sticks, binoculars (a new one to me) or even your bare hands.”

They fail to advise people who enter black bear country that this species looks upon humans as a food source much more often than grizzly bears and only a firearm of sufficient caliber will stop a determined black bear assault. Check that out in Stephen Herraro’s classic book, “Bear Attacks.” I have been a wildlife field biologist in the Southwest for more than four decades, and one time had to use pepper spray on an adult black bear that was attacking me at a distance of two to three feet. The effect was sufficient to drive the bear off long enough for me to reach a vehicle and vacate the area, but the bear returned shortly and tore up the trailer I had been staying in.

The Boy Scout motto “be prepared,” should be followed when entering bear country. Both E.P.S. approved pepper spray (as suggested by the Arizona Game and Fish Department) and a reliable firearm should be at one’s disposal in bear country; your bare hands, sticks or rocks aren’t up to the task of protecting yourself or those around you in the rare instance of a bear attack. These predators are powerful beyond belief and well equipped with stout claws and heavy-duty teeth.

Dexter Oliver

Duncan, Arizona



Bicycle column unbalanced

It is unfortunate the “Calling it What it is” article could not have been a little more fair, balanced and thoughtful. As a long time distance runner and coach, I can completely understand Fr. Rochelle’s frustration with many motor vehicle operators and the apparent adversarial attitude toward both cyclists and pedestrians many of them exhibit on our roadways. But from the behavior exhibited by many of the cyclists in the area, it would appear this adversarial attitude goes both ways.

Although paved roadways were primarily created for the use of motor vehicles, without question pedestrians and cyclists have every right to use them, as long as they abide by the rules of the road. But as a coach with often upwards of 20 runners out on the roads, the rule was always: “Even if you know you have the right-of-way, you will always lose in a confrontation with a car. Don’t ever cross in front of one unless you are certain they have seen you and are going to stop.”

But the real problem I had with Fr. Rochelle’s article is the attempt at twisting language to make his point. That point, apparently, was that whenever a collision between a cyclist and a motor vehicle occurs, the driver of the motor vehicle is automatically at fault. If Fr. Rochelle is going to “personalize” the cyclist as “a woman on a bicycle” then instead of “the driver of a car” shouldn’t it be “a man or woman driving a car?” And to be fair, how does he know “the driver of a car crashed into” the woman on the bicycle? This implies that the impetus for the crash came only from the car. Was he a witness to the accident/collision? Could the “woman on the bicycle” have swerved into the path of the car and been accidentally struck? The rhetoric used in Fr. Rochelle’s statements reveals his quite substantial bias. And the use of “people walking” instead of “pedestrians” is laughable. A pedestrian is a person walking, at least according Webster’s, and “a person walking” is no less a “category” than “pedestrian.” Anyone with at least a high school education should know the meaning of the word “pedestrian.” No amount of politically correct word wanking will change this. Of course there is another definition for “pedestrian” that does not belong in this discussion.

So let’s try to be fair when discussing the roadway interface between motor vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians. Undoubtedly, there are many motorists on the roads who are careless, confrontational, or impaired in some way. I believe the same can be said for some cyclists. Some would say that a cyclist speeding downhill on a blind curve on the wrong side of Highway 15 has a death wish. Some would say that riding four abreast on a highway and not moving over for overtaking traffic is inconsiderate and discourteous. With courtesy and consideration for others using the road, we can all share the road safely. This brings up the major complaint I hear from motorists about cyclists: they don’t contribute anything by way of licensing fees for care and maintenance of the roads. This is a valid point. Perhaps if we required licenses and plates for cyclists we could use the revenue to create more bicycle friendly roadways that could be safely shared by all. And if you spot someone operating a motor vehicle unsafely, you can often get a license number and report them. The same can’t be said for cyclists.

[signature missing in printed edition]



PNM’s plan bad for ratepayers, bad for environment

Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) has a plan to commit New Mexico ratepayers to expensive dirty fossil fuel technologies for the next 20 years. It has been demonstrated that clean renewable options would save ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars and yet New Mexico’s Public Regulation Commission (PRC) appears poised to give approval to PNM’s replacement power plan.

After multiple extensions, PNM has until Aug. 1 to submit final documents including a coal fuel contract and a restructuring contract between partners in the San Juan Generating Station (SJGS). The PRC should come out with its decision shortly thereafter. Why the PRC has given an additional extension to PNM to work out contracts toward a plan that is obviously not in New Mexico’s best interest is perplexing and suspect.

To comply with current environmental regulations, PNM and other parties settled upon a “Stipulated Agreement” to shut down two coal plants (SJGS 2, and 3). There

seems to be general consensus that that is a good idea, but PNM’s plan to replace the power has drawn much scrutiny and the process has unveiled PNM’s deceptiveness:

PNM claims that their plan is the most cost effective plan for its NM ratepayers:

For the majority of the replacement capacity, PNM wants us to purchase coal power from SJGS unit 4 and nuclear energy from Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station unit No. 3. The plan also calls for construction of a natural gas peaking plant and a very small amount of solar power. More specifically, PNM’s plan would replace the power with 38 percent nuclear, 32 percent coal, 26 percent natural gas, 4 percent from solar and 0 percent from wind energy.

Meanwhile in the eastern part of New Mexico, Southwestern Public Service Company (SPS) recently purchased wind energy for about ¼ the price of PNM’s preferred energy sources. Additionally, in recent applications submitted to the same, NM PRC, SPS has cited saving customers’ money as the reason that they want to increase their investment in solar power. Solar prices are continuing to come down; Nevada Energy recently announced its purchase of solar power for only 3.9 cents / kWh.

Costs of electricity:
SPS
PNM
Solar - 4.2 cents/kWh   Solar - 6.8 cents/kWh
Wind - 2.3 cents/kWh   Wind - 3.8 cents/kWh
NVE Solar - 3.9 cents/kWh   Nuclear PV2 - 8.3 cents/kWh
Coal SJGS#4 - 9.0 cents/kWh

 

• PNM rates were 49% higher than SPS rates in 2014

• SPS costs as cited in PRC case numbers: 2 new solar facilities 15-00083-UT, SPS Wind 13-00233-UT

• PNM costs as cited in case numbers: 13-00390-UT, 1300138- UT, and other PNM Renewable Energy Filings

• NVE (Nevada Energy) has contracts to purchase a 100 MW of solar at 3.9 cents / kWh

 

The SPS and NVE prices were obtained through a Request For Proposal (RFP) process. So far our PRC has not required PNM to issue a competitive RFP for most of the replacement power. Yielding to public pressure, PNM did recently issue an RFP for the Natural Gas portion, resulting in a $50 million, 40 percent savings for its New Mexico customers. But, PNM continues to avoid putting out an all resource RFP on the nuclear and coal portion of their plan; RFPs should assure ratepayers cost efficiency.

So what would PNM’s motivation be to have its NM customers purchase dirty coal power at 9.0 and dangerous nuclear power at 8.1 cents per kWh when clean sources of energy are available for 2.3 – 4.2 cents per kWh? 1) If PNM is allowed to transfer their share of Palo Verde 3 nuclear and SJGS 4 coal plants onto the New Mexico side of their ledger, they will convert what are currently liabilities to shareholders, into assets. Right now shareholders are selling the Palo Verde 3 power on the open market for 3.7 cents / kWh. If they can transfer their share in Palo Verde 3 to us they will be assured 8.1 cents / kWh. Additionally, we would assume significant responsibility for reclamation and decommissioning costs.

2) The more expensive PNM’s plan is, the more money they make. PNM is generally allowed cost plus 11.4 percent on capital expenditures once they are incorporated into our rates. If they invest in less-expensive technologies like wind and solar, then our bills are lower and they make less profit. PNM knows that wind and solar would cost us less than the resources that they already own. They want to shackle us with high electricity bills simply to enrich shareholders.

PNM spokespeople often try to justify their plan by saying that the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow:

In reality renewable energy sources fairly closely match user demand and they have the advantage of flexibility. Nuclear and coal plants can not easily stop and start to meet customer demand. PNM has more of these, less-flexible, “base-load” power resources than any of its regional peers. As for PNM’s implications that it is not possible, or that renewables would be less reliable, other companies are successfully switching to renewables.

So what would happen if PNM’s plan obtained PRC approval and then some future federal regulations on water use, or methane pollution, or ozone, or nitrogen oxides, or carbon dioxide pollution were implemented (new rules on emissions are due out later this summer)?

If PNM’s plan is implemented new regulations would cost us, ratepayers, even more, either for pollution control equipment, or if PNM decides to switch to renewables at that point, in addition to paying for the renewables, we may have to pay stranded asset costs toward no longer using the coal or nuclear plants. In fact, incorporated in the Stipulation Agreement is $115 million dollars of stranded asset reimbursement to PNM. Of this, $67 million is for pollution control equipment put on units 2 and 3 that will no longer be used as a result of their retirement. The pollution equipment was just put on these units in 2005. It was well known that this equipment was wholly inadequate to address the other known environmental issues such as carbon emissions and water usage, etc., but PNM chose that route and we are now apparently going to pay them to no longer use this equipment. I call costs such as these “Hidden Costs.”

But the unquantified potential Hidden Costs such as stranded assets and the underestimated reclamation and decommissioning costs of Palo Verde 3 and SJGS 4 are by no means PNM’s only Hidden Costs.

New Energy Economy (NEE) aided ratepayers when they paid more than $17,000 to gain two months access to “Strategist,” PNM’s preferred modeling program. Thus, more than $1.1 billion in other Hidden Costs were uncovered. These discoveries included a $367 million fuel cost “error,” a $532 million omission of the normal operating and maintenance (O and M) costs and a “demand forecast change” whereby PNM determined that its New Mexico customers all of a sudden needed 54 more MW (apparently because Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems didn’t want it) costing us $222, million.

If PNM’s plan is approved, this $1.1 billion in Hidden Costs would be passed on to NM ratepayers. False figures were the basis for negotiations during the Stipulated Agreement. As a result of NEE’s discoveries, a majority of the signatories have withdrawn from the agreement. Additionally, these omissions made PNM’s plan look closer

into cost of renewable resources than they actually are. But even utilizing above market figures for renewables, PNM tried to keep its internal comparisons out of the public record because they showed wind and solar to be more cost efficient!

Solar and wind power out compete coal and nuclear on every measure: cost, health, regulatory risk, environment, climate, and jobs. Getting power from Palo Verde would not create any New Mexico jobs.

Tom Manning

Silver City



Thanks to the community for all the help

I would like to pay tribute to my neighbors in the community and area of Wind Canyon, also to the the businesses of Silver City for all of the help given to me at the time of the loss of my husband, John Robert Penn.



couple

Mary Penn and her husband, John Robert Penn


While John was being cared for in the Providence Memorial Hospital at El Paso, my neighbors took care of the sale of our RV and also dealt with the removal of our belongings by the shipping company to be sent to England. I cannot thank all of my neighbors enough for all they did for us at this difficult time.

We never dreamed when we left England in 2002 that we would come and go from the USA for 13 years and find ourselves living in such a caring community as Silver City for 10 of those years. We became enchanted by New Mexico and every time we returned I felt the love of the place and the people and our home. This will never leave me.

I wish to thank all of those people on those trails in every state of the USA for their unselfish help and support. God bless you all and God bless your America.

Mary Penn

Devon, England

 

 

 

Let us hear from you! Write Desert Exposure Letters, PO Box 191, Silver City, NM 88062, or email letters@desertexposure.com. Letters are subject to editing for style and length (maximum 500 words, please), and must be in response to content that has appeared in our pages. Deadline for the next issue is the 18th of the month.

 

 



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