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A proposed flavored tobacco ban is back on the table in Minnesota, Trump attorney Evan Corcoran must testify in the documents probe, and a "clean slate" bill in Missouri would make "expungement" automatic.

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The Fed raises interest rates and reassures the banking system is sound, Norfolk Southern reaffirms a commitment to the people of East Palestine, and TikTok creators gather at the Capitol to support free expression.

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Finding childcare is a struggle everywhere, prompting North Carolina's Transylvania County to try a new approach. Maine is slowly building-out broadband access, but disagreements remain over whether local versus national companies should get the contracts, and specialty apps like "Farmers Dating" help those in small communities connect online.

NM's Public Regulation Commission Rushes to Approve Solar Project

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Monday, October 29, 2018   

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A hearing for a proposed community solar project near Las Cruces is scheduled for next month, even after El Paso Electric attempted to withdraw its proposal.

New Mexico's Public Regulation Commission has put the hearing on its calendar, despite opponents' successfully arguing that the original proposal showed favoritism to the utility company over independent solar contractors. Mariel Nanasi, executive director of the group New Energy Economy, said when utilities are given an automatic advantage by the PRC, customers don't get the lowest price for solar energy.

"The law is, you're supposed to get the most cost-effective among feasible alternatives,” Nanasi explained. “Well, one of the other alternatives is to allow independent power producers to compete against the utility - and when they do, they're often much cheaper."

At a recent meeting, PRC Chairman Sandy Jones said he believed El Paso Electric's project was so important that no consideration should be given to proposals from independent solar companies. A 30-day application turnaround isn't typically considered feasible, but the hearing is scheduled for November 27.

Nanasi said she believes it's being rushed because three of the five commission members will not sit on the board by the end of the calendar year.

The solar farm would be similar to one that El Paso Electric operates in southwest Texas. It allows low-income and other customers to have their power supplemented by the solar farm, even if they can't afford or don't want home installation.

Nanasi said she thinks these types of projects should be embraced by the state, and that the PRC isn't acting in the public's best interest when it shows favoritism to a major utility. She pointed to studies showing that most solar generated through contracts with independent power producers is less costly than solar provided by utilities.

"When you are sitting as a commissioner, your whole job is to regulate on behalf of the public,” she said. “And yet, they want to approve it without even a hearing - the hearing has not even happened yet."

El Paso Electric's 20-year resource plan says solar projects from independent solar providers can be contracted at $21 per megawatt hour - one-third of what the utility itself is currently charging.


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