Avangrid, local customers have different priorities

The recent announcement of the crisis by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) clearly shows the extreme gravity of the global situation. To avoid disasters, we need immediate change to convert old energy systems to renewable energy.

Fossil fuel power plants, such as (those used by) PNM, produce large amounts of centralized energy to take advantage of economies of scale. Today, these savings are overshadowed by the need to decarbonise energy production.

Traditionally, electric utilities – natural monopolies – have been regulated to ensure the quality, pricing, rate of return and appropriateness of investments. The Public Regulatory Commission is currently developing such rules for the Avangrid merger, with the addition of new rules for community solar power and related interconnection needs.

Regulated utilities make investment decisions to maximize profits, rather than to promote economic efficiency. With the merger, Avangrid acquires the grid for much of the state, as well as extensive power generation systems. It seems obvious that this company plans to expand the export of energy to California and Texas through this network. Conversely, the citizens of New Mexico have different interests: meeting our electricity needs, while tackling climate change in a cost-effective and equitable manner.

New methods of producing and storing renewable energy are being developed by private companies, university researchers and national laboratories such as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in the United States. Decentralization, i.e. localization, of energy production using photovoltaics and wind – less polluting and lower cost sources of electrical energy – can also reduce energy losses. energy that occur with long distribution systems.

Together, a distributed grid (DG) with decentralized power generation (DP) will require a lot of planning and investment. We are concerned about Avangrid’s interest in undertaking such efforts. A holistic approach to DG and PD was not part of the recent PRC process.

1. Will Avangrid modernize and “smarten” the network to facilitate distributed generation?

From US NREL: “Decentralized control… provides a new paradigm for resilience, protection against natural disasters and cyber attacks. The DG requires a more complex management system than traditional energy production: it requires a “smart grid”.

2. How will Avangrid interact with the new community organizations to decentralize power generation? Will the requirements of the Utility Regulatory Policy Act (PURPA) be met by Avangrid?

Community energy producers should be the vectors of decentralization. These small producers allow the community to choose the means of production and distribution according to local conditions and preferences. Having a local base for power generation also promotes economic development more than the $ 25 million economic development offered by Avangrid.

PURPA specifically allowed parties other than the regulated monopoly utility industry to enter the power generation market. Under PURPA, an investor-owned utility is to enable community solar producers and non-profit organizations to participate in power generation.

3. How will the public be involved in planning and investment decisions?

PNM’s recent Integrated Resource Plan paves the way for zero emissions with the divestiture of the Four Corners plant. Replacing Four Corners is only a small part of what is needed. The public must be involved in planning electricity production, setting up, pricing and improving the social impacts of new production and distribution systems.

In short, there is an alternative to the current large-scale polluting and wasteful energy production. This alternative – community solar energy – concerns not only new technologies, but also social organization. As suggested by newenergyeconomy.org, “Can justice prevail in New Mexico? »The alternative must be the public power.

The authors are members of Ward 17B of the New Mexico Democratic Party, which is establishing a state environmental justice caucus.

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