A year and a half ago, Public Service Company of New Mexico’s holding company, PNM Resources, announced its agreement to be bought out by Avangrid. After the Public Regulation Commission rejected the merger, the case has gone to the New Mexico Supreme Court on appeal. Still, our community is left with unanswered questions.

These include:

  • How do our opinions on the deal matter when approval is entirely in the hands of various regulatory agencies, including the PRC, which oversees PNM on our behalf?
  • How would the merger improve PNM’s generating operations and transition to renewable energy?
  • With the merger, would PNM customers see faster transition to renewables and/or lower rates?
  • What is PNM’s long-term power generation plan for replacing fossil fuels with renewables?

Other questions relate to how customers would benefit.

The deal includes $67 million in customer rate credits over three years, an increase from the initial rate-credit offer of $24.6 million. What is the advantage of these rate credits, which customers would benefit and how much will individual customers receive?

The merger is supposed to bring 150 full-time jobs to New Mexico, up from the 100 new jobs in the initial merger offer. What sorts of jobs will these be? What benefits accompany wages and salaries? The jobs are guaranteed for five years; what happens after that time period?

There is $10 million in the merger to help residential customers behind in paying their bills (arrearage relief); again, that’s an increase from the initial offer, which was $6 million. How much of the arrearage on PNM books will be forgiven? Does losing this income impact company operations? Given that PNM often is the sole source of electric power, what company policies can be developed to eliminate customers falling behind on bills in the first place?

These questions deserve answers. Instead, we have been subjected to a massive marketing campaign, waged in sound bites pro and con, to sway our opinions. Our community is capable of processing information, and we deserve better. Deeper investigative reporting plus more forthright communication from the power companies could have helped by providing detailed insights on the terms of the merger, careful tracking of the revisions made to the initial deal during negotiations, and broader discussion of the risks PNM and customers might experience from this agreement.

While we wait for all regulatory agencies and courts to take final action on the merger, rate-paying customers need to keep alert that our interests will be addressed and protected.

In the end, is this merger good for PNM customers? Maybe. Obtaining answers to these and similar questions is essential before we can answer that question with confidence.

Barbara Chatterjee is a Santa Fe resident with deep interest in how our public utilities serve us.

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