Saturday, January 21, 2012

Dedication of New Las Vegas Solar Energy Center Marks Completion of Five New PNM Solar Plants

Public Service of New Mexico issued the following news release:

Joined by elected officials, community leaders and residents, PNM today dedicated the new Las Vegas Solar Energy Center, the last of five new utility-scale solar power plants PNM has brought online within the past year.

"These five facilities represent an investment by PNM and our customers in the potential of renewable energy," said Pat Themig, PNM vice president of generation. "While the plants cannot generate electricity continuously as customers require, together they will generate enough energy over the course of a year to power about 7,000 homes."

The Las Vegas facility, with 5 megawatts of solar capacity, is comprised of about 78,000 solar photovoltaic panels on 50 acres north of downtown Las Vegas. It has been sending power on to the PNM electric grid, for the benefit of all PNM customers, since Nov. 24.

The five solar energy centers were built as part of PNM's effort to comply with New Mexico's renewable portfolio standard, which currently requires that 10 percent of energy produced for customers come from renewable resources. The other new solar facilities, completed earlier in 2011, are located in Albuquerque (2 megawatts of capacity) and Los Lunas, Deming and Alamogordo (5 megawatts each).

The five solar plants together are expected to produce 51 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually, offsetting 44 million pounds of carbon dioxide - or the equivalent of removing 4,500 cars from the road.

In addition to the facilities' combined 22 megawatts of capacity, PNM also has added 25 megawatts of solar capacity expected from an existing customer-owned solar program that pays incentives for customers to own their own solar energy systems. This is in addition to 200 megawatts of wind energy capacity from the New Mexico Wind Energy Center that PNM added to its system in 2003, before the state passed a renewable requirement.

PNM Files Request for Renewable Energy Line Item on Bills

Supports Compliance with the State Mandate, Keeps Costs Low

Yesterday, PNM filed a request with the N.M. Public Regulation Commission for permission to establish a separate, annually adjusted charge for implementing the requirements of New Mexico's renewable mandate to keep customer costs for renewable energy as low as possible. Keeping costs low also makes it possible to add more rather than less energy each year.

The fee, reflecting the cost of PRC-approved projects implemented since January 2011 but not yet reflected on customer bills, would add approximately 2.1 percent to PNM bills, or $1.38 for the average residential customer in 2012.

These projects include the costs of the utility-scale solar build out, the customer-owned solar program since the end of 2010, a landmark solar photovoltaic battery storage project near the Albuquerque airport, and the purchase of 58,071 megawatt hours of renewable energy from the Red Mesa wind facility in Cibola County west of Albuquerque.

PNM is proposing to recover renewable energy costs through this charge, just as it does energy efficiency program costs, rather than waiting to add them to general rates.

If the request is approved, PNM customers could see their first charge in August. The annually adjusted charge would allow costs to appear on customer bills closer to when they are incurred, lowering overall program costs due to avoided finance charges; avoiding multi-year program costs hitting customers all at once; and making the cost of renewable energy - through a separate line item -- clear to customers.

If the company waits to recover the costs in general rates, customers would not start paying for costs being incurred in 2011 and 2012 until 2013 at the earliest, by which time the customer cost increase would be nearly double because consumers would be paying for both past costs and new costs at the same time.

Lowering costs makes it possible to add more renewable energy and stay within the cost cap. The state's renewable requirement, which rises from 10 percent to 15 percent in 2015, also sets a cost cap to protect customers.

The rate for 2012 is based on an annual cost for 2012 of $18 million, consistent with what PNM proposed in its last rate case, collected over a five month period beginning in August, for total collections of $7.9 million in 2012. The remaining 2012 costs would be recovered in subsequent years. Hearings in the matter are expected to take place later this year.


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