Western Europe is facing an energy crisis this winter. Prices have skyrocketed. Natural gas is 400 percent higher than the start of 2021 while coal is up over 300 percent.

As if high prices weren’t enough of a problem, 40 percent of the natural gas that Europe uses comes from Vladamir Putin’s Russia, an unreliable supplier to say the least.

New Mexicans should take heed. Thankfully, despite the Biden Administration’s permitting ban on federal lands (since invalidated by a judge), New Mexico has steady supplies of oil and natural gas.

Those supplies help protect us from wild price swings and supply disruptions like those that could cause massive economic pain and human suffering in Europe this winter.

While we’ll be fine this winter, New Mexico’s largest utility is facing serious challenges finding enough electricity by next summer.

Due to the Energy Transition Act of 2019 which forms the cornerstone of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s “Green New Deal” agenda, the San Juan Generating Station is slated to be permanently shut down next June during the hottest part of next summer.

PNM executives have stated clearly that the hunt for “renewable” power to replace San Juan Generating Station is not going well. Even in the best of circumstances “renewables” like solar and wind are inconsistent and require backup like batteries, but the pandemic has hit supply chains hard and projects are being delayed.

Unless Gov. Lujan Grisham acts quickly to keep San Juan Generating Station open, the plant will be taken offline as scheduled this summer and blackouts and brownouts could be the result. If you don’t believe me, Tom Fallgren, PNM’s vice president of generation told the Public Regulation Commission recently, in discussing the possibility of brownouts and blackouts said, “Am I concerned? Yes. Do I lose sleep over it? Yes. Can we solve it? Yes.”

He further noted that PNM practices for scenarios, such as brownouts, have detailed procedures to handle them and prioritize power for places such as hospitals.

Finally, Fallgren noted, “We are looking at any and all options. … And we continue to beat the bushes, so to say, for other opportunities as well.” Are you feeling reassured? I’m not. Interestingly enough, PNM continues to reject new natural gas-powered resources in New Mexico as replacement supply.

Even if we escape serious power outages this summer, the issue is not going away. In fact, it will only get worse. In 2023 and 2024, PNM is abandoning its leases for power from Palo Verde (a nuclear power plant in Arizona), and by the end of 2024, PNM will no longer receive power from the Four Corners plant, yet another coal-fired plant here in New Mexico.

Ironically, as has been discussed in PRC hearings, the Navajo Tribe wants to take over Four Corners plant (saving jobs and tax revenues) while environmentalists are pushing hard to shut it down completely. Regardless of what happens next summer or over the next few years, these are policy-driven decisions made by Lujan Grisham and Democrats in the Legislature. They could have massive implications for New Mexico families.

Already, with the price of everything already going up, New Mexicans’ electric bills rose 5 percent just last year. Those rate hikes will continue to escalate for years into the future regardless of whether PNM or Avangrid is in charge. Wasn’t the Energy Transition Act supposed to hold the line on price increases?

New Mexicans and their elected officials must be aware of the very real problems facing them as June of 2022 approaches. It is not too late to prevent this crisis.

Paul Gessing is president of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation, a tax-exempt organization dedicated to promoting prosperity and individual responsibility.

(6) comments

Bruce Taylor

What this author with painfully transparent a painfully transparent energy politics position doesn't get is really quite astounding. What other commenters believe they know about renewable energy and intermittency is quite nearly laughable. Methane is roughly 30X the earth warming GHG that carbon is. It just weakens/dissipates in its 100 year cycle faster than carbon. Here in New Mexico, we have a deeply serious methane problem, resulting from natural gas operations. Natural gas is the single largest directly human-caused contributor to methane after all of agriculture. This state (particularly this writer and a number of the commenters) need to catch up on the actual state of renewable energy science and technology everywhere. Our methane "contribution" from the economic windfall of natural gas is equal to that of four average-scale coal-fired power generation plants. This state needs to lead in the difficult and economically challenging task of transitioning from linear, extractive, carbon-based energy to a zero-carbon, green, circular, and regenerative energy policy at a scale and velocity -- and that will be the only thing that actually saves the state's economy, ultimately. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham faces strong headwinds on this topic because we are addicted to fossil-fuel contributions to state coffers. However, she and her team will join the Biden Administration's efforts at COP26 in Glasgow, and she goes with my very best wishes and gratitude for the leadership she's giving this state.

Mike Johnson

While on their expensive boondoggle junket in Scotland, I do hope MLG takes the time to listen to what Africa is experiencing wrt wind and solar, and why she should not count on developing nations to adopt such ridiculous goals......https://www.wsj.com/articles/solar-wind-force-poverty-on-africa-climate-change-uganda-11635092219

Mike Johnson

A lesson from the UK on reliance on intermittent sources of power: "Britain's climate policy rested on the assumption that in 2050 there would be just 7 days when wind turbines produce <10% of their potential, but in 2021 "there have already been 65 such days, and in 2016 there were as many as 78.""

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2021/10/23/net-zero-target-relies-rise-windy-days/

Khal Spencer

This is clearly a cart-before-the-horse policy on the part of MLG and the Legislature. One has to have replacement solutions identified and ready to go before pulling the plug on Four Corners. And why nuclear continues to be the third rail of energy policy for Democrats is a good question. Modern reactors are safe, and disposal is feasible. This is a political solution, not technical one.

The good news is that brownouts, should they come, will be during an election year. Count on our governor to notice that as the lights dim along with her re-election confidence.

Mike Johnson

Yes, a disaster is coming soon for PNM customers. Whenever you replace reliable, always on, base-load power generation, like nuclear, coal, and natgas, with intermittent, weather dependent sources like wind and solar, with no instant backup and no storage, only 2 things can happen. Either you will have rolling blackouts and brownouts, or much more expensive imported supplies at whatever the market will bear for this, which will be a high price. I am so glad I am on JMEC, they have much better sources and supplies, and know the problems with unreliable renewables.

Khal Spencer

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