Public Service Company of New Mexico executives carried a stark message Wednesday about a potential power shortage next summer because of the closure of San Juan Generating Station.

Speaking to the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission, they described a disconcerting situation for June 2022. The executives — Tom Fallgren, Ron Darnell and Mark Fenton — said they continue to work on solutions.

Commission Chairman Stephen Fischmann of Las Cruces introduced the possibility of a “brownout” next summer, or a situation in which electricity would be temporarily diminished for some customers.

“You don’t want to dwell on doomsday scenarios,” Fischmann said, alluding to how uncomfortable that topic is for PNM.

Fallgren said PNM practices for scenarios, such as brownouts, have detailed procedures to handle them and prioritize power for places such as hospitals.

PNM has contracts with companies to provide solar panels and other elements to replace the energy lost with the anticipated closure of the coal-fueled, polluting San Juan Generating Station.

But PNM said the coronavirus pandemic has had a profound impact on supplies, such as microchips and steel. The companies expected to build solar facilities have warned PNM that they most likely will not be ready by June 2022.

PNM spokesman Ray Sandoval said later that his company generally has a 2,000-megawatt system with about 500 megawatts provided by the San Juan Generating Station.

PNM did not name specific companies involved in the solar projects, but three listed in paperwork filed with the commission are Photosol Development US, 8minute Solar Energy and Clearway Energy. It’s not clear what role or projects each of those would be responsible for.

Darnell said one solar-project developer “began stepping out of the process” entirely. PNM has named three solar replacement projects Rockmont, Arroyo and San Juan.

Fallgren said PNM expects to have a 5 percent cushion of electrical energy to use next summer, which he said falls well short of PNM’s preferred 13 percent to 18 percent cushions.

“So what are your options?” asked Commissioner Cynthia Hall of Santa Fe.

“We are looking at any and all options. ... And we continue to beat the bushes, so to say, for other opportunities as well,” said Fallgren, PNM vice president of generation.

“Am I concerned? Yes. Do I lose sleep over it? Yes. Can we solve it? Yes.”

PNM intends to abandon coal-burning plants such as San Juan and Four Corners Power Plant, both in northwestern New Mexico. The plants are aging and don’t fit the plan to move toward renewable energy such as solar and wind.

Asked by Commissioner Joseph Maestas what the delays mean for closure of San Juan, Fallgren said contractual and regulatory matters would complicate moving the closure back.

“Not that we would take any option off the table,” he said.

Darnell, PNM senior vice president for public policy, said his company issued two requests for proposals for replacement power to fill the gap next summer.

The responses were few, inadequate and haven’t changed the outlook for a shortfall, he said. This shows “how tight the current markets are becoming in the West,” he said.

Fischmann said the pandemic has been so problematic for the industry that he wasn’t surprised by this problem.

He said he appreciated what a delicate communication challenge it is. But he said it might be wise to get ahead of it instead of surprising customers with it.

(14) comments

George Benson

Why don't they make the decommissioning of the coal plant conditional upon successful operation of whatever replaces it?

Why are we ignoring generation 4 nuclear power especially given our mineral resources?

Khal Spencer

If you want to mix politics and electric power, this what you get.

Mike Johnson


Peter Romero

This is the standard when you are and first in everything bad, and last in everything good.

Cheryl Cliff

Switching to renewables is criteria…but NOT by cutting off power especially to people who can’t restroom or eat without electricity. Cherry picking people for brown outs sounds like a bad political sit-com but hopefully somebody more responsible can manage deciding, Mr Rabkin you are clearly not. Slinging political comments without thinking things from many angles is prime time right now, cheap and easy. Isn’t there some way left to distance oneself from cheap and easy?

Matthew Rawlings

Could have seen this coming from a mile away. Voters, take note. And PNM ratepayers and investors hold those executives accountable for the terrible decisions they are making with regard to you our energy future. Less energy, more costs. Sound good?

Richard Reinders

Could be a ploy to push us to the Avagrid merger.

Mike Johnson

This situation is guaranteed to get worse if the merger happens.

Andrew Lucero

You are spot on Richard... PNM is saber rattling to get their merger.

Barry Rabkin

I'd really like a solution that less power is sent only to the homes of people who want the State to switch to renewables.

Cheryl Cliff

Mr Rabkin, I’d really like you to consider your “solution” isn’t a one size fits all since many folks, speaking of disabled specifically, require electricity in order to conduct basic daily functions like using the restroom. Have you heard of power chairs? How about a solution that no power goes to your house in order to keep dependent people functioning?

Barry Rabkin

My solution is to use all energy sources available - coal and petroleum products included - to provide consistent energy to all homes, businesses, hospitals, and every other venue that requires power to keep the lights on and all appliances functioning. Renewables alone or in primacy are a path to blackouts and brownouts. People who want the State to primarily depend on renewables should always experience the downsides of their logic.

Khal Spencer

Sounds good to me.

Richard Reinders

What did Biden say turn oil energy jobs into green energy jobs, well their off to a bad start. Like I have said before when there is a reliable tangible alternative I am all for it.

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