Suppose I told you the following:
- Your home’s electricity would cost 5 percent less for the next three years, saving you $126.
- Your power supply would be pollution-free, with zero greenhouse gases, by 2035.
- Your pandemic-related delinquent electric bill would be forgiven.
- If you live in a rural or tribal area and don’t have electricity, $2 million would be used to get you service.
- You would be eligible for part of $15 million in energy efficiency upgrades for homes and businesses.
- If you live on Navajo land, you would see $300 million of renewable energy investment.
- Over five years, $25 million would be dedicated to economic development in New Mexico.
- If you live on tribal lands, your communities would receive $12.5 million for economic development.
- If you work for Public Service Company of New Mexico, your job would be protected for three years.
- If you’re a PNM customer, your reliability would be guaranteed with strict requirements and penalties.
- There would be 150 new, high-paying jobs in New Mexico.
- Oh, and none of these things would cost you a dime?
Well, thanks to our Public Regulation Commission, you likely will see none of this, although PNM is appealing the decision to the state Supreme Court.
On Dec. 8, the PRC denied Avangrid’s offer to merge with PNM, which included all these benefits and many more. Only one out of 24 parties in the case opposed the merger. In its zeal to deny the Avangrid/PNM proposal, the PRC even refused to hear directly from the 23 of 24 parties not opposed to the merger. Why? One PRC member said she didn’t want to waste the time, and others worried they might be convinced to do the wrong thing. Seriously?
So, why did they reject the merger? According to the PRC, it was because Avangrid was a bad actor. In fact, the PRC seemed intent on denying the merger regardless and created a long list of excuses to do so. Here are three the PRC seemed to rely on most, and why they make no sense:
- Avangrid utilities provided unreliable service back East. In fact, the service issues were caused by record storms driven by climate change. Had the merger been approved, it would have specifically addressed our climate crisis. Avangrid’s service record was typical of other Eastern utilities and in many cases, better. And importantly, Avangrid’s experience with severe weather could have been useful to New Mexico as it continues to deal with climate change.
- There’s a corporate espionage case in Spain, and some Iberdrola officials (Avangrid’s parent company) are being investigated. According to the PRC, this shows Avangrid’s poor corporate culture. Worth noting, though, is that Avangrid itself brought the case to the PRC’s attention, and even the PRC acknowledges much of what’s being investigated is legal in the U.S. The PRC uses secret information to support its conclusions, conveniently making it impossible for anyone to challenge. Still, after years of investigation, no Iberdrola or Avangrid official has been charged with anything.
- vangrid would put its profits over the interest of consumers. Really — that’s a surprise? That’s why we have regulators. Perhaps, instead of denying the merger and its benefits, the PRC could just do its job.
The PRC’s merger denial is one of the worst and most consequential decisions I have seen in nearly 40 years appearing before the PRC. Except for Commissioner Joseph Maestas, who was at least willing to hear from parties and look for ways to make the merger work, the rest of the PRC again showed that voters were right in reforming this destructive agency.
Unfortunately, the reforms don’t start until 2023. That’s one year too late.