The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission will take up consideration of a clean energy standard that would require utilities it regulates to lower carbon emissions from electric generation a total of 80% from 2012 levels by 2040.
During its Oct. 11 meeting, the commission issued an order establishing a workshop to consider the proposal, spokesman Carlos Padilla said. Workshops have been scheduled for Oct. 18 and 19 in Santa Fe, N.M.
The workshops will be open to all stakeholders — New Mexico residents, plant employees, state government and local officials, and others — to examine that the proposed standard does no harm, Padilla said. The commission wants to examine potential negative and positive outcomes if the proposal is adopted, he said.
Western Resource Advocates, or WRA, an environmental group behind the idea, applauded the commission's decision. WRA, along with New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas and Prosperity WORKS, in August petitioned state regulators to adopt a carbon emissions reduction standard that would require utilities to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 4% per year for 20 years.
Steve Michel, energy policy director for the WRA, noted that the decision comes a day after the Trump Administration said it would repeal the Clean Power Plan. Michel said state regulators took the first step to making sure New Mexico does its part to address the threat of climate change.
"the proposal is a simple and cost-effective standard that protects our environment and maintains affordable electricity rates for New Mexico customers," he said.
New Mexico's existing renewable portfolio standard requires investor-owned electric utilities to get 20% of their electricity supply from renewable resources by 2020, with specific carve-outs for wind, solar and distributed resources. Electric cooperatives have to get 10% of their supply from renewables by 2020, but without any specific resource requirements.
The Union of Concerned Scientists and representatives of the SunZia Southwest Transmission Project each filed comments in support of the petition.
The proposed 515-mile SunZia project is intended to link New Mexico's renewable resources with markets in the western United States and will consist of up to two single-circuit 500-kV transmission lines.
SunZia told the commission Oct. 4 the proposed clean energy standard "is entirely consistent with the vision of a clean energy future that has always guided our project."
The Union of Concerned Scientists told the commission Oct. 2 that the proposed standard is a "valuable policy that warrants further discussion." The group said the proposed rule would call on utilities to reduce CO2 emissions over time in a way that manages cost and risk and complements the state's existing policies such as the renewable portfolio standard and energy efficiency standards to reduce CO2 emissions and move to a clean energy economy.
The proposed standard would apply to PNM Resources Inc. subsidiary Public Service Co. of New Mexico, the state's largest utility.
PNM said reducing carbon emissions is an important public policy goal the company has long supported.
"Through a comprehensive process, PNM has already proposed an Integrated Resource Plan that includes a series of actions that, if approved, would eliminate the company's coal generation by 2031," PNM said. "We look forward to participating in the workshop process."
The utility's integrated resource plan proposes permanently closing the 1,684-MW San Juan Generating plant in 2022, when the plant's coal supply contract expires. Then in 2031, PNM plans to exit its 13%, 200-MW ownership share in the 1,540-MW Four Corners power plant when that plant's coal supply agreement ends. (New Mexico Public Regulation Commission Docket 17-00211-UT)