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PRC’s rule change is boon for solar industry

The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission reversed an earlier decision Wednesday, voting 3-2 to make the value of solar energy equal to the value of wind energy for the state’s power companies. In November, the commission voted to make 1 kilowatt-hour of solar energy worth two renewable energy certificates. It left wind at a 1-to-1 ratio.

The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission reversed an earlier decision Wednesday, voting 3-2 to make the value of solar energy equal to the value of wind energy for the state’s power companies.

Renewable energy advocates cheered the move, which they view as a boost to the solar industry. The changes, however, have made the renewable energy requirements for utilities no less controversial.

In November, the commission voted to make 1 kilowatt-hour of solar energy worth two renewable energy certificates. It left wind at a 1-to-1 ratio and made the value of a kilowatt-hour of energy from biomass, geothermal and other sources worth three renewable energy certificates.

Utility companies use the certificates to prove they are meeting state-mandated requirements for renewable energy.

Renewable energy advocates, who want to reduce the use of oil and gas, complained the weighted values would decrease the actual amount of solar energy a utility has to provide to customers and would hurt the state’s burgeoning solar industry.

Investor-owned utilities are supposed to provide 15 percent of their customers’ electricity from... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission reversed an earlier decision Wednesday, voting 3-2 to make the value of solar energy equal to the value of wind energy for the state’s power companies.

Renewable energy advocates cheered the move, which they view as a boost to the solar industry. The changes, however, have made the renewable energy requirements for utilities no less controversial.

In November, the commission voted to make 1 kilowatt-hour of solar energy worth two renewable energy certificates. It left wind at a 1-to-1 ratio and made the value of a kilowatt-hour of energy from biomass, geothermal and other sources worth three renewable energy certificates.

Utility companies use the certificates to prove they are meeting state-mandated requirements for renewable energy.

Renewable energy advocates, who want to reduce the use of oil and gas, complained the weighted values would decrease the actual amount of solar energy a utility has to provide to customers and would hurt the state’s burgeoning solar industry.

Investor-owned utilities are supposed to provide 15 percent of their customers’ electricity from renewable sources by 2015 and 20 percent by 2020. The renewable energy has to come from a diverse mix of sources, such as wind, solar, biofuels and customers’ rooftop solar systems.

Renewable energy advocates approved the commission’s decision to make solar and wind certificates equal again Wednesday, but they still think the rule has some problems.

The renewable energy rule has been the subject of a tug-of-war between advocates, major power users like Honeywell and the PRC members. A big bone of contention has been a disagreement over how to fairly calculate the costs and benefits of renewable energy compared with energy from nonrenewable sources, such as coal and natural gas.

Utility companies charge their customers higher rates to recoup the costs of adding renewable energy, such as the costs of building wind farms and installing solar photovoltaic systems.

Commissioner Becenti-Aguilar, whose Four Corners District is rich in natural gas and coal but has many low-income residents, said any change that is going to increase customer rates needs close scrutiny. While Becenti-Aguilar supports renewable energy and voted in favor of the rule change, she said her constituents already are struggling to pay their monthly bills.

Along with Becenti-Aguilar, Commissioners Patrick Lyons and Ben Hall voted in favor of the renewable energy rule change Wednesday, reversing their positions of a month ago. Commissioners Valerie Espinoza and Karen Montoya were again in the minority.

Lyons said there was “a whole bunch of discontent” over the commission’s November vote. “I tried to get everyone working together on this the way we did on energy efficiency,” Lyons said. “It didn’t work this time.”

The fact that the renewable energy rule was once again on the PRC agenda caught some people by surprise.

Espinoza objected that the latest change to the renewable rule was added at the last minute — by Lyons — without public comment. “What happened this time is what seems to happen regularly. New language is introduced, and people don’t have time to review it,” Espinoza said. “I don’t think this is the end of it, certainly not for the process.”

Montoya, whose District 1 includes Bernalillo County and Albuquerque, home of the biggest power users, said she voted against the final order in the renewable rule because she felt it was outside of the scope of what the commission originally had said it was going to review. That opens the commission to a legal challenge, she said.

“While I believe it is wonderful that we made solar whole again, I still believe there could be a possible issue with the scope of what we did,” she said.

The PRC has spent the last several months reviewing the renewable energy rule, which was approved by a prior commission in December 2012 following two years of work.

“I think this whole thing was opened under the pretense that we were going to make these rate cases run more smoothly and quicker,” Montoya said. “This didn’t necessarily do that. There may be more contentious rate cases in the future.”


Source: http://www.santafenewmexica...

DEC 19 2013
http://www.windaction.org/posts/39343-prc-s-rule-change-is-boon-for-solar-industry
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