Robert Hirasuna’s opinion piece (“Time to come clean on New Energy Economy,” My View,
Jan. 19) was misleading and quite nearly false in many respects.
Hirasuna notes he was an attorney at the Public Regulation Commission for many years, so he was part of a process of leading us to our current position in electric generation. I make note. In his time at the PRC, the Public Service of New Mexico stock price is up 600 percent.
According to data at Fidelity Investments, PNM rate of return on equity was 24.6 percent in the last quarter compared to an industry average of 9.16 percent. Profit margin for PNM in last quarter was 23.7 percent compared to an electric industry average of 12.83 percent. So Hirasuna did nothing for consumers over that span, it would seem.
That is borne out by the letter. He states that PNM leaving the Arizona-based Palo Verde nuclear plant would result in more gas generation. Way false. It would only if a knucklehead made the choice. The Arizona plant’s energy would continue and would displace gas elsewhere in the Western Energy Imbalance Market. Here, it would be replaced by wind/solar/battery operations that would cost less and put the property taxes into New Mexico rather than into Arizona.
PNM’s public relations team has done presentations showing that renewable energy runs around 2 cents per kilowatt-hour today, while operations at a natural gas plant are projected at around 3 cents per kwh. So the question is: Why in the world build more gas plants when renewables are less costly and, when paid for, the price drops dramatically, while an appreciated gas plant still has the bulk of operations costs to meet?
We already have New Mexico utilities that are replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy and cutting costs by doing so. But Hirasuna and his like have been dragging their feet on better investments and continue to do so.
PNM still blathers about reliability of renewable energy but says it will be 100 percent in 2045. What’s going to change so that 100 percent of the energy can be renewable? Nothing really. We already have times regions such as Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle are almost entirely wind energy and do so without reliability issues.
Hirasuna hits on New Energy Economy because it has a rather simple message: Do the arithmetic! Two cent energy is cheaper than 3 cent energy. Energy built in New Mexico is better than energy built in Arizona.
The region to our east has 30,000 megawatts of clean energy generation, which is 15 times PNM’s total load. The reliability is fine and the cost is less than PNM’s high-profit, smog-producing plants.
My most recent job of consulting for industries in Oklahoma showed they were paying a utility that is building only renewables to replace its current generation fleet 28 percent less than PNM’s average industry rate.
New Energy Economy is right to stand up and ask to see the light of PNM’s real costs. After all, how many times do we read in the papers of PNM saying, “Oh, we made a mistake in our numbers?”