An Email to the PRC of New Mexico

An Email to the Public Regulatory Commission of New Mexico by Peter Burrows elburropete@gmail.com – silvercityburro.com 7/25/15

The New Mexico PRC web site has the email addresses of all five members.  Go to http://www.nmprc.state.nm.us/.  The following is an email I sent  to each of them July 25.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the PRC,

You have been holding public meetings for input concerning Public Service Company of New Mexico’s proposed plan to shut down two of the four coal-fired boilers at the San Juan Generating Station. If the meeting I attended in Silver City on March 16 is any indication, well over 50 percent of those giving public testimony favor eliminating all four of the coal-fired boilers.

These well meaning people cite two primary reasons for their position:
(1) Increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere will lead to catastrophic global warming, and coal is the number one contributor of  CO2.  Implicit in this argument is the assumption that shutting down the San Juan Generating Station will make a meaningful contribution to reducing world CO2 levels;
(2) Renewable energy, specifically solar and wind, are cheaper alternatives.

Both of these arguments are terribly misinformed.

(1) A study published in March of this year by The Sierra Club and CoalSwarm, a project of Earth Island Institute, titled “Boom and Bust – Tracking the Global Coal Plant Pipeline,“(1) reveals that there are 276 gigawatts of new coal plants under construction today and 1,083 gigawatts in the planning stage. (2)

Considering the recent history of project cancellations, and the strong likelihood that the current slowdown in Southeast Asia, especially China, will continue, it is possible that the planning stage projects will be cut by two-thirds or more.  Still, if only 25 percent of the 1,083 gigawatts in the planning stage actually gets constructed, that would mean that the total of new coal-fired capacity coming on stream over the next decade or so would be 547 gigawatts. (276 + .25×1,083)

The San Juan Generating Station generates 1,848 megawatts from all four coal-fired boilers.(3)  Assuming the planned projects are completed at a 25 percent rate, shutting down San Juan completely would represent a reduction of .34 percent of just the new coal-fired capacity coming on stream (1,848,000/547,000,000). That’s POINT 34 percent, about one-third of one percent, and that‘s probably  high.  The percent of total coal-fired capacity would of course be much, much lower.

This is a meaningless reduction in world CO2 levels.  I believe the PRC should reject the CO2 argument as simply not relevant.  To ask New Mexicans to save the world from CO2 when the rest of the world quite obviously doesn’t want to be saved from CO2, is something that appeals to only a minority of New Mexicans, and probably a small minority.

(2) Many who testified in Silver City said that renewables are cheaper than coal.  Anybody asserting that has probably not considered the costs of intermittency and transmission.  Nonetheless, I would like the PRC to direct PNM to survey its customers to see what percent each customer would like to have of their bill reflect the cost or savings from renewables.

For example, PNM could ask each customer how much of the electricity they receive would they like to be from  renewables. Some would certainly want 100 percent, others, like me, zero percent.  PNM would then allocate the incremental costs or savings from renewables accordingly.   If the solar/wind proponents are right, my electricity bills will increase while theirs decrease.  It’s a chance I’m willing to take.

On the other hand, the $5.39 Renewable Energy Rider on my last PNM bill just might disappear and be billed to those who support renewable energy.  Sounds fair to me.

Thank you for your consideration,

Peter Burrows
Silver City
575 590 8602
elburropete@gmail.com

(1) http://action.sierraclub.org/site/DocServer/Coal_Tracker_report_final_3-9-15.pdf?docID=17381
(2) Ibid pg 6
(3) Powering Past Coal at the San Juan Generating Station, Wild Earth Guardians http://www.wildearthguardians.org/site/DocServer/San_Juan_Generating_Station_Fact_Sheet.pdf?docID=1342

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