Balderas: New Mexico regulators reject study on renewable energy

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas visits the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute located in Stucky Hall at New Mexico State University on Thursday, July 9, 2015. Balderas toured the facility and met with water experts to discuss southern New Mexico priorities and protection of New Mexico’s water rights. Pictured behind Balderas is the new website for the NM Water Resources Research Institute. (Robin Zielinski/Las Cruces Sun-News via AP)
Copyright , The Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas on Wednesday said state regulators have turned down his request to study the costs and benefits of renewable energy within the state.

Balderas made the request last month, asking the Public Regulation Commission to investigate the value of distributed generation systems, such as rooftop solar.

Balderas maintains that the state's current electricity system is dysfunctional and that reforms should ensure renewable energy is an affordable option.

"I continue to urge the PRC to gather more accurate and transparent information for taxpayers, including the study of the true costs and benefits of wind and solar energy in New Mexico," he said in a statement.

The request to look into distributed generation was prompted by a rate proposal floated by New Mexico's largest electric utility, Public Service Co. of New Mexico.

Now that the rate case has been rejected, PRC Chairwoman Karen Montoya said the commission decided to table the request for a study.

"It would be irresponsible for the PRC to pay for a study that may not be currently relevant," she said, adding that the agency already is dealing with a budget shortfall and a large caseload.

The attorney general's office argued that the costs and benefits of distributed generation need to be examined and that other utilities have proposed increases that would affect rooftop solar customers.

"This is a statewide issue, and PNM is not the only utility," said Cholla Khoury, an assistant attorney general.

PNM, which serves more than a half-million customers, could refile its rate case as soon as October.

The utility had said the increase was needed to help cover the costs of new solar-power generating stations, federally mandated pollution controls at the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station and other infrastructure.

Under the rejected rate request, PNM's residential customers could have seen their monthly bills jump by $9.75 starting in January 2016, and new solar customers would have faced fees ranging from $21 to $36 to connect to the grid.

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