- Associated Press - Thursday, August 27, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico’s largest electric utility on Thursday renewed its request to raise rates, this time by an average of more than 14 percent.

The latest request by the Public Service Company of New Mexico comes after the commission rejected an earlier filing over concerns that the utility failed to provide enough information to justify its proposed increase.

Utility officials say they expect the latest proposal, if approved, to be offset by lower fuel costs as well as savings that would be realized through a new coal supply contract if the company’s plan for shutting down part of the San Juan Generating Station clears the commission.

Revenue raised through the proposed increase would cover the half-billion dollars in investments being made in a new natural gas-fired power plant, new solar generating stations, general maintenance and federally-mandated pollution controls at the San Juan plant.

PNM Resources’ CEO, Chairwoman and President Pat Vincent-Collawn said it’s been four years since the utility’s last general rate increase and customers are reaping the benefits of the investments made since then.

PNM is also looking to revamp the rate structure so customers’ bills will more accurately reflect how they’re using electricity - something Vincent-Collawn says hasn’t been done in more than two decades.

Energy efficiency and the slow recovery of New Mexico’s economy have resulted in declining energy usage, which has affected PNM’s bottom line.

As part of the filing, PNM wants to design rates that better align with the actual costs of serving customers while still encouraging energy efficiency.

New Energy Economy, one of the environmental groups that has been critical of the utility, took aim at the latest proposal saying not enough of the revenue from the rate increase would go toward boosting solar and other renewable energy programs.

Mariel Nanasi, the group’s executive director, suggested PNM’s investment in coal-fired and nuclear power only benefits the utility’s senior management and shareholders.

PNM maintains that its portfolio represents the most cost-effective option for customers.

With the rate increase, utility officials say residential customers will still pay less for electricity as a percentage of household income than in most other states, including neighboring Arizona and Texas.

The PNM rate case is just the latest case commissioners have been asked to decide. In southern New Mexico, El Paso Electric is seeking a 9 percent increase in non-fuel rates for residential customers and those who have rooftop solar systems. That proposal has drawn criticism from residents and the renewable energy industry.

PNM’s previous request sought to implement a fee and roll back some incentives for solar customers, but those provisions are missing from this latest proposal.

The utility says it plans to bring up the issue in the future, but decided not to in this request given the need to implement new rates in a timely matter.

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