The San Juan Generating station is slated to close it’s doors and cease operations in 2022, a fate that was decided prior to the state’s Energy Transition Act. But as the state moves to become fully compliant with the Energy Transition Act, the NM Public Regulation commission has to decide on a plan for supplementing the power that was derived from San Juan. As of this writing the PRC commissioners are deciding between two separate plans for keeping the lights on in New Mexico, with a vote scheduled for Wednesday, July 29th.
The first option, the CCAE-1 portfolio will cost more, and be a less reliable system as it fully relies on renewable energies. Under this plan NM would switch to mostly solar power and rely on California to supply NM with power in the event we have shortages. What’s still unknown is how this plan would perform in high temperatures, when electric demand is surging, the wind isn’t blowing, the sun isn’t shinning and regional supplies are short. Without base load electric power plants like San Juan and Escalante for the state to rely on, there’s no place to turn for dispatchable power.
The second option facing PRC Commissioners “Sierra Club 2-4” proposes a more balanced approach to maintaining power to NM. Under this plan, New Mexico can control its electric production without relying on untested measures and other states (who themselves are already struggling with rolling black and brownouts, and planned outages). The plan offers NM consumers a well rounded portfolio with renewables, batteries, and gas-fired generation that will run less than 10% of the time. That limited gas-fired generation is critical for closing the gap during peak usage or sporadic power demand increases and will provide the reliability that consumers need in the absence of large battery reserves. In addition it’s also the cheaper option for New Mexico and prevent’s reliance on other states with untested methods.
*Update 7/29/2020* The NM PRC voted unanimously on Wednesday morning to approve the CCAE-1 plan for New Mexico. As noted above, this decision by the PRC will cost PNM customers more, and be a less reliable system as it fully relies on renewable energies. NOT a good decision AND it was unanimous.
*Update 3/31/2020* The Albuquerque Journal Editorial Board also raising concerns last week about the reliability of the 100% renewable plan to meet NM’s power needs. California’s recent rolling blackouts amid the heatwave were a direct result of similar legislation, but NM won’t have the reliable back up of gas power plants like CA does. Read more HERE.