There’s been much advertising in print and social media over the last few months intended to warm New Mexicans up to the proposed merger of Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) with Connecticut-based energy giant Avangrid Renewables.
The final steps to push this merger forward will be a series of New Mexico regulator evidentiary hearings to be conducted in mid-August.
Of discussion will be whether or not the board of directors for PNM and Avangrid needs to be made up of a majority of independent directors, and whether or not the transparency of Avangrid can be counted on, given the company’s history of not disclosing relevant information to state regulators.
The merger would provide PNM with the financial capital necessary to improve its infrastructure, allowing for increased transmission capabilities of renewable energy generated by Avangard’s wind farm resources in the state, according to a press release from the company.
Avangrid owns the La Joya and El Cabo Wind Farms in Torrance County.
The combined companies would own 10 regulated utilities in six states, and would have renewable operations in 24 states.
Avangrid’s mission statement, according to the company’s website, is to help “lead America’s transition to a renewable energy future.”
Opponents of the merger are concerned about Avangrid’s reported poor performance and customer service issues in Maine, Connecticut, and New York, and about a lack of transparency in sharing those issues with regulators overseeing the merger, according to officials within the New Mexico Public Regulations Commission.
Additional criticisms from the PRC address weak customer benefit initiatives and a lack of funds supporting economic development in New Mexico.
PNM and Avangrid acknowledged these criticisms in April this year by creating a new proposal for the merger that would include $50 million in credits for customers, funds to go toward energy efficiency assistance for low-income customers over three to five years, local economic development donations of $7.5 million, and promises of jobs created and carbon-free status achieved by 2035, according to representatives for both companies.
Attorney General Hector Balderas signed off on the adjusted proposal, saying that the improvements made would also prioritize underserved tribal communities, and provide more resources for union workers and coal miners affected by the imminent closures of two coal-fired power plants in northwestern New Mexico.
Getting the merger approved requires a moving a bureaucratic mountain. Not only would the deal need approval from PNM shareholders, the Federal Energy Regulation Commission, and regulators in both New Mexico and Texas, but it would also need approvals from the Federal Communications Commission, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the Committee of Foreign Investment—Avangrid is owned by Spain-based parent company Iberdrola.
As New Mexico and the rest of the nation continue to seek out renewable energy sources, the ability to transmit that power efficiently and equitably will remain a topic of concern for both the suppliers of generation accumulation methods as well as consumers of the product.