Back in 2012, when helping form the Santa Fe chapter of the Green Chamber of Commerce, the emerging board of directors spent many hours debating whether to be an organization opposed to the Public Service Company of New Mexico.
I was part of that group. All of us were opposed to coal-fired power plants, all believed climate change was a globe-threatening reality getting worse, and many of us were fellow travelers with New Energy Economy and its executive director, Mariel Nanasi, the longtime nemesis of PNM.
In the end, we concluded we were a business organization first and believed our role was bridge-builder between opposing camps. Green Chamber Executive Director Glenn Schiffbauer and I joked about how lonely it could be in the “radical center."
As builders contemplate the potential for all-electric homes in the future, they are obvious stakeholders in the pursuit of affordable carbon neutrality. And that's why so many are interested in the proposed merger between PNM and Connecticut-based Avangrid, a subsidiary of Spanish energy giant Iberdrola.
From afar, it appears the nonstop legal battles between New Energy Economy and PNM are like David vs. Goliath or an epic Greek tragedy. But the better analogy, especially these days, may be the Cervantes character of Don Quixote, who falsely believed the windmills of La Mancha were evil giants threatening the population.
No, as his loyal knave Sancho Panza might've said in today's world, they are just wind turbines creating clean electricity.
As removed as the public may be from the headlines of the PNM-New Energy Economy conflict, those of us in the middle, who know the players, understand it is a personal battle.
That said, PNM has changed since 2012. It has listened to employees with deep roots in Santa Fe’s character. They and others convinced the company's leadership to read the writing on the wall, and they have.
The passage of the Energy Transition Act, with its commitment and timetable to carbon-neutral electrical power, was not fought tooth and nail by PNM. In fact, it made corporate commitments to transition even faster than the law mandates.
PNM will never admit it, but its transformation has a lot to do with the blinding flurry of lawsuits perpetually filed by Nanasi. She is relentless. She will not stop. She will press on.
Nanasi's tireless campaigns and legal brilliance have made for better deals. She has wrung more money and concessions from Avangrid than the five members of the Public Regulation Commission ever would have done on their own.
But it is time to put this round of battles to bed and move on with the deal.
In a recent My View column in The New Mexican, Steve Michel, the deputy director of the clean energy programs for Western Resources Advocates, expressed unequivocal support for the Avangrid/PNM merger. That sealed it for me. Michel has been tilting at the PNM windmill even longer that Nanasi, but always from the calm center of the storm.
Sometimes the radical center is a silent majority where the only sounds are massive vanes whirling in the wind.