In high school, I started working with Earth Care and learned about the importance of sustainability and doing community projects to improve both environmental and social justice. Now, as a single mother, I am concerned for my daughter and future generations. I work hard to provide for my daughter but struggle sometimes; it has less to do with my work ethic and more to do with structural unfairness. An example occurred a few months ago when I was surprised by the newest Public Service Company of New Mexico bill.
I live in a two-bedroom apartment with my daughter. I am careful not to leave any lights on unnecessarily, I make sure the heater isn’t on unless we are home, and I do everything I can to conserve energy. I was completely shocked when I opened my PNM bill and the amount due was close to $400. I compared my bills for the last six months and realized that this invoice was twice as much as in the past. I was charged even more than in December, when I had my Christmas tree up. I called PNM because I was sure there was a mistake on my utility bill. I was told this charge was standard for the apartment complex I live in and all they could do was give me a couple extra weeks to pay the bill.
I thought my situation was unique, but then I started talking to other neighbors and they, too, were surprised by their increase. One neighbor said initially: “What the heck are you using so much electricity on? I have never had a bill that high!” Her facial expression changed drastically when she saw her bill, also for a two-bedroom apartment, was $30 more than mine.
What that means is that folks like me are having to juggle all of our bills or risk disconnection. Disconnection is the reality for many families in our state. This situation needs to change.
Unfortunately, PNM is taking us in the opposite direction than the one we need to go. Instead of pursuing cheaper and more sustainable forms of energy like solar and wind, the company is investing in expensive nuclear and coal, and raising rates to cover the costs. Since 2008, we’ve seen our rates increase more than 50 percent. In October 2016, PNM raised our rates again by 9.5 percent, and now PNM is asking for another 9 percent increase. It’s time to close coal, divest from nuclear, and head down the path of 100 percent renewable energy. We can’t afford to do otherwise — financially or environmentally.
While Donald Trump and his fossil fuel cabal are out pedaling climate denial, we can and must act locally and push for 100 percent renewable energy. There are more than 25 cities that have taken the pledge. So let’s take advantage of our spectacular solar and wind resources, keep the savings, and improve our environment and health. We can reap these benefits by making clean, affordable renewables a reality. Let’s solve these challenges together.
Bianca Madrid lives in Santa Fe.