The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission voted Wednesday to set aside a petition by Attorney General Hector Balderas requesting a cost-benefit analysis of how small-scale power generation technologies such as rooftop solar panels affect the utility grid.
The vote to table the measure was unanimous. Commission Chairwoman Karen Montoya, D-Albuquerque, said the petition was made after the Public Service Company of New Mexico filed a request to raise electric rates 12 percent along with instituting a new monthly fee for customers with rooftop solar systems.
Additional fees for distributed electricity generation such as rooftop solar panels aren’t before the commission right now, Montoya said.
“We rejected that rate case, which will be refiled at a later date,” she said. “We’re pushing [the attorney general’s petition] off to a later date, not rejecting it, and that’s because studies cost money. The Public Regulation Commission has a shortfall in our budget, and we have a huge caseload at this point.”
Commissioner Patrick Lyons, a Republican from Cuervo, said the commission is grappling with a six-month hiring freeze and lacks the authority to redirect funds in support of the request.
“We don’t have the manpower to do it, period,” Lyons said.
Montoya said the analysis might be better directed to the Legislature.
“The attorney general wants a baseline study for multiple rate cases,” said James Hallinan, a spokesman for Balderas’ office. “In the state of New Mexico, we’re not just dealing with PNM. We’re dealing with El Paso Electric and other utilities that cover different portions of the state, so it’s very important that there’s an independent study of distributed generation.”
Jessica Scott, regional manager at the nonprofit Vote Solar, a solar-power advocacy group, said the full benefits of solar power generation need to be taken into account by the state, “including factors such as reducing demand for traditional power plants and reducing the amount of energy that gets lost transmitting electricity over long distances.”
Contact Margaret Wright at 986-3011 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @MargaretWrite.