The price of everything is going up and much of the increase can be traced back to energy costs. With unemployment high and the economy threatening a double dip, wouldn't you think our elected officials would be doing everything possible to cut energy costs and, therefore, lower prices to help ease the pain the public is feeling?
Legislators in more than half the states have voted for mandatory renewable energy standards—usually called an RPS for Renewable Portfolio Standards. While the numbers vary state-by-state, an RPS generally requires that an increasing percentage of a state's electricity come from renewable sources—primarily wind and solar—by set dates.
Most of the mandates coincide with the year: 15% by 2015, 20% by 2020, etc. Most states voted in the RPS back when the economy was thriving and "green" energy sounded like a good idea—after all the wind and the sun are "free." Voting against "renewables" was akin to not liking puppies. Elected officials from both parties have voted for their state's RPS. But, renewable energy systems have not proven to be free, and most cannot survive without special mandates and subsidies paid for by your tax dollars.
We now know that while the wind blows and the sun shines, converting them to electricity is expensive. We also know that with the troubled economy, no one wants more expensive energy—especially when there are questions about how "green" it really is.
In New Mexico, a citizen working group has spent the last ten months in meetings with PNM—the primary state utility company. The goal: to produce a report—as required by the Public Regulatory Commission (PRC)—that outlines how the company plans to meet the state's RPS. That report is being delivered to the PRC on Monday, July 16.
The 236-page document can be summed up in three simple words: more expensive electricity.
Many different computer models were run to determine the least-cost way to meet the mandates. The results should not be surprising. The least-cost model was based on coal—but it does not meet the mandates. The least-cost model that does meet the mandates requires the addition of wind, solar and gas-fueled power plants and shuts down some of the older, existing, fully functional, coal-fueled power plants. The model favored by advocates of "green" energy cuts out coal all together and requires the building of new gas-fueled plants for base load power and to back up the renewables. This third model is the most expensive and therefore is unlikely to be selected by the PRC. But even the mid-range plan will cost state residents more than a billion dollars—and this is just for required CO2 penalties, not the actual power-plant capital costs. That increase will be felt in everything and disproportionately hurts the poor. Not to mention the increased costs to the cities within the state which are trying to balance their budgets while keeping the lights on.
Coal and Nuclear were found to be the lowest cost energy generating systems available, yet they are not in PNM's portfolio for the foreseeable future. The report states that renewable energy systems are expensive, yet they are in the plan.
It is bad enough that states have to deal with the rising costs forced on them from the federal level—such as the EPA's Best Available Retrofit Technology regulations, but to have local legislators vote for higher energy costs is baffling.
Once New Mexico's plans are approved by the PRC and the plants are built, ratepayers will see a huge jump in electric bills—but by then, when people become outraged, it will be too late. If PNM is required to implement this plan, they rightly will need to recoup their costs and there will be a rate increase. The time to fight such increases is now, when the report makes the higher costs clear—right there in black and white (and color).
In New Mexico, we are asking folks to call their Senator and State Representative and have a complete list of current legislators who voted for the RPS in 2007 in the "Act Now" section of EnergyMakesAmericaGreat.org. If your state has an RPS—more than half do—use the New Mexico report to stir up the debate. Demand that the RPS be repealed—before it is too late!
Marita Noon is the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc.