The bosses at Public Service Company of New Mexico have made it clear.

Their company is too small to compete — PNM lacks the capital or connections to make necessary investments to transform the company to renewable energy from fossil fuels. The company can’t move quickly enough to meet the needs of the market and consumers, and certainly not fast enough for the rapidly heating planet.

When that conclusion became inevitable, the New Mexico utility went looking for a buyer. Fortunately for consumers, the potential purchaser is an energy company, rather than a hedge fund with no energy expertise and a sole profit motive. Now, a proposed merger — contentious because of the enormous stakes — is before the Public Regulation Commission, with nothing less than New Mexico’s energy and economic future up for debate. Hearings concluded in August, and the full PRC should be deciding the fate of the merger sometime this month.

Should the merger between PNM Resources and Connecticut-based energy behemoth Avangrid be approved, the problem of access to cash will vanish. Avangrid and its parent company, Iberdrola of Spain, are flush with dollars. They also can borrow at lower rates than PNM and can purchase goods in bulk, saving even more money as necessary investments are made.

What’s more, Avangrid brings worldwide expertise in solar and wind energy to the deal, along with the intention of developing New Mexico’s renewable resources not just for PNM customers but for the entire Southwest.

That has been painted as a negative by some merger opponents, who raise the specter of another outside company coming to New Mexico to mine its resources, profit and leave the residents behind.

We see it differently.

The climate crisis is such that energy must transform rapidly from gas- or coal-fired plants producing electricity to solar and wind, sources of power that can be renewed daily. Time is short. New Mexico needs those resources and so does the rest of the country.

Under the proposed merger, Avangrid would acquire PNM Resources and its two utility subsidiaries — Public Service Company of New Mexico and Texas New Mexico Power. It’s a cash transaction valued at $4.3 billion.

Along with the purchase, Avangrid is offering a total of $133.5 million in direct merger benefits. These include:

  • $67 million in rate relief for customers over three years.
  • $10 million to forgive past-due residential consumer debt from the pandemic.
  • $15 million for energy efficiency efforts to assist low-income customers in reducing consumption and thus saving money.
  • $2 million to extend electric service to residents living in rural areas.
  • $25 million in economic development funding.
  • $12.5 million for Indigenous community groups in the Four Corners region.
  • $1 million for scholarships in Albuquerque/Bernalillo County area.
  • $1 million to create or improve apprenticeships.

Avangrid also is promising to create 150 new jobs — with decent salaries and benefits — over three years. That would generate an estimated $200 million in local economic impact. Company employees also would be tapped into a global job market, able to work for Avangrid at home, across the U.S. and perhaps someday in Spain or Scotland or Brazil, all places where parent company Iberdrola operates.

Yet there remains opposition, primarily from Santa Fe’s New Energy Economy, that should be taken into account. The group, for years PNM’s most ardent critic, has pointed out problems in Avangrid’s service in Maine, criticized fat payouts for PNM bigwigs, demanded better terms for ratepayers and denounced cozy relationships between merger advocates and top state officials. Interestingly, its complaints about Avangrid and Iberdrola are eerily similar to those it has voiced for many years about PNM, though the companies are very different.

The opposition, in the end, may have led to more generous benefits for PNM customers and the state. Negotiations to sweeten the deal continued even to the end of the hearing, with discussion among merger partners and the PRC staff bearing fruit, requiring new regulatory controls to ensure grid reliability. These controls will lay out initial standards Avangrid must meet, establishing hefty automatic penalties ranging from $250,000 to $500,000 for each time the company isn’t compliant.

Penalties with bite are important to ensure customers can rely on their electricity working. The final key to the merger, when all is said and done, will be oversight from the Public Regulation Commission. The commission, and at some point, future governors and legislatures, must be vigilant to ensure Avangrid follows through on its commitment — this energy giant, like PNM, will bear watching.

Approve the merger. Make sure Avangrid keeps its promises. And use this opportunity — after all these years — to fulfill the promise of renewable energy for New Mexico and the future of the planet.

(11) comments

Anna Lands

Since NM does not have enough power available, according to the justification for the merger, the proposed SunZia transmission lines 'needed' by Pattern to move energy from NM windfields to CA are not needed. Energy produced in NM should be kept in NM. The proposed transmission lines would bisect and parallel the two major migration corridors in the SW: the Rio Grande and the San Pedro (AZ).

Roxanne Barber

It’s terribly disappointing to see The New Mexican support this merger. You often get it right but this time you are way off. This merger will damage the people and environment of our state for decades to come if it is approved. It’s sad to see The New Mexican come down on the wrong side of social, economic, and environmental justice. Shame on you.

Stuart Feen

First, who is or are the person or persons behind this thing called “Our View” and his, her, or their relationship to PNM, Avangrid, Iberdola, the PRC, various PNM executives, and various local and state attorneys and politicians who seem to have a personal financial interest in this merger?

PNM, Avangrid, Iberdola, and the PRC have well documented histories of corruption and lies. A hit piece against New Energy Economy like this “Our View” without attribution as to authorship is just a fascist ploy and clear indication of the total corruption behind this deal.

Throughout its history and under various ownerships the New Mexican has periodically espoused views based upon ignorance, racism, white supremacy, self interest, politics, and etc. I suspect that this “Our View” is one more such time that in the full glory of daylight and truth will be seen as such an error of judgment.

So, is the New Mexican a full

participant in a modern day Santa Fe Ring? Fess up, and let’s see who really wrote this “Our View” and why.

Mike Johnson

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]Well said!

Lynn k Allen

The idea was to shut down the coal fired plant in the four corners.

The deal sells it to others who will keep it spewing out coal pollution.

The article said "The climate crisis is such that energy must transform rapidly from gas- or coal-fired plants producing electricity to solar and wind, sources of power that can be renewed daily."

Allowing this deal doesn't get us any cleaner!!!!

Chris Mechels

The New Mexican gets it wrong again!! New Energy Economy is right again!! Surprised? The New Mexican suggests that we will "Make sure that Avangrid keeps its promises". Who are they kidding??" PNM does not keep their promises, and we can't make them. The New Mexican is no help there either... But, we are to listen to their stupid opinions??? Fat chance. Go with New Energy Economy, which, unlike the New Mexican, has a good record on these issues.

Mike Johnson

Just another left wing diatribe defending corruption and consumer shakedowns for the sake of "green", both money for politicians and the "environment" though what this small, poor, backward state does in increasing non-fossil fuel energy will be anything more than a literal drop in the ocean. Ridiculous, but not if you are a left wing politician or "green" energy company exec who stands to make millions of the suffering of the consumers for this.

Robert Fields

Homeowners can insulate themselves from rate increases by installing solar panels. You don’t have to pay up front, either. There is financing available. PNM does net metering here as long as you stay below 10kW of solar so excess energy produced during the day and fed into the grid can be pulled back out of the grid at night or on cloudy days. If you have enough panels to cover your energy use, your bill can be only a $10/month connection charge. You can also install a critical loads battery backup if you want to insulate yourself from power outages and keep things like refrigerators and lights and other loads alive during grid power outages.

Paybacks do take years so depending on the size and options, if you finance or not, it can stretch out. But in the mean time you help reduce the need for fossil fuel and nuclear power, help the planet, and basically eliminate your electric bill (aside from the $10/mo connection).

Anyone interested should have a look. The technology has come a long way and is very transparent now.

Richard Reinders

Robert., I agree I heard from the solar supplier in Taos that the energy companies are rethinking the KW for KW exchange for your excess wattage , because at night they have to supply more expensive electricity so it ends up being a net loss for PNM. Other states stopped doing direct exchange and only pay you around a third or less per excess KW from what they normally charge . The numbers may still work but the ROI is extended maybe to the point of attrition of the equipment.

Richard Reinders

You miss the point altogether, the damage done to the landscape of New Mexico and the main focus on California, Mexico and Arizona much bigger markets leaves us as the red headed step child. Instead of changing from fossil fuels to generate power mandate the large corporate farmers go to a no till farming technic and the farms biodiversity will consume the carbon foot print and you can eat steak too. Look up "Kiss the Earth" on Netflix there is more than one way to deal with the carbon foot print and maybe a quicker way.

Mike Johnson

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup] A recent study showed that to get to net zero emissions by 2050, Biden's goal, will require additional land use for solar and wind farms that will be the size of the states of Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma combined. We will see what people in the US think of such a massive land use scheme, can you say NIMBY? What will have to be removed to accommodate all this?

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