PNM to minimize its baseload power from coal-powered plants and increase renewable energy capacity

The Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) has unveiled plans to reduce electricity from coal-powered plants and nuclear plants. Instead, the electricity utility is planning to increase its green energy capacity, add natural gas generation, and tap into hydrogen as power. PNM wants to ditch coal-powered generation by 2024 and cut on the nuclear power generated at Palo Verde Generating Station. The company has filed an integrated resource plan (IRP) for 2020 with the New Mexico Regulation Commission and is pending approval.

Some of the IRP changes include the shutting down of the San Juan Generating Station in 2022, previously slated to last until 2053. The new plan also mentions transferring thirteen percent of the utility’s share in the Four Corners Power Plant to Navajo Transition Energy Company. Furthermore, the roadmap indicates PNM does not intend to renew leased capacity at Palo Verde Generating Station. “We’ll be reducing our baseload down substantially, and we’ll be projecting to bring on a whole lot of renewables and energy storage and other resources to serve our customers,” said Nick Phillips, the director in charge of the integrated resource planning at PNM.

“I don’t think baseload in and of itself is the key to reliability. The key to reliability is making sure that you’ve got a wide mix of resources that if your renewable generation has big changes from minute to minute or hour to hour, you’ve got other resources that can fill in those gaps,” added Phillips. In the meantime, PNM will replace the energy sourced from coal plants with power from nuclear remains. The utility will also add renewables and maybe natural gas and hydrogen, according to Phillips. The hydrogen plants will be brought to life from 2040 and could push the company’s ninety percent clean energy to a hundred percent when complete.

Although the overall ambition is to provide clean energy to its customers at affordable rates, PNM notes that a hundred percent renewables will add some expenses to its clients. “I do think that as you go forward in time, decarbonizing a system completely cannot be done free of charge. And so, we’ll have to see what technologies develop and how the cost of those technologies hopefully declines over time,” noted Phillips.

Interveners think ill of PNM’s plan to transfer its Four Corners Power plant. Camilla Feibelman, director of Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter, says the utility agreed to evaluate leaving Four Corners in 2024 and 2028. “By passing off their holdings in Four Corners to NTEC, they are short-circuiting the analysis that they are required to do and could potentially cause the plant to stay open for longer than necessary, not just from an economic perspective but also from a climate standpoint,” Feibelman,said. The New Mexico electricity provider is yet to decide what resources will replace energy sourced from the Four Corners plant.

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