As the state transitions to a clean energy future, a brighter future for all New Mexicans, it is important that the governor and the Legislature work together with the Public Regulation Commission to ensure we have the necessary resources to carry out visionary trailblazing legislation such as the Energy Transition Act, the Community Solar Act, the Grid Modernization Act and the Transportation Electrification Act, to name a few.
The people of New Mexico rely on the PRC to regulate the utilities that provide vital services to our homes and businesses and to set the rules and regulations to implement legislation. However, to do this, the PRC needs the expertise and professional staff to lead us to that clean energy future. Unfortunately, recent budgets have proved insufficient to hire and retain staff and outside experts to help guide the commission in an ever-increasingly complex global energy and regulatory environment.
The consequences of these challenges include:
- A backlog of rule-makings for recent enacted laws that include rate decoupling, transportation electrification, grid modernization and many more.
- A lack of technical advisory resources needed for the commission to make the most informed decisions in the public interest.
In a 2017 report authorized by the Legislature and prepared by the Legislative Council Service, the National Regulatory Research Institute had these conclusions.
New Mexico must ensure the commission has sufficient resources to recruit and retain staff and support technical expertise to accomplish PRC duties and keep pace with a complex and rapidly changing industry.
New Mexico should consider funding certain initiatives, such as the Community Solar Act, through fees collected as opposed to the general fund. This will provide stability in budgeting for the agency.
The report warned, “This death-spiral-type condition [of increasing demands and shrinking resources] … has seriously jeopardized the capability of the PRC to protect the public interest.”
As New Mexico is in transition to a clean energy future, so too is the PRC in transition. The PRC is changing from an elected commission to an appointed one effective Jan. 1, 2023, so now is the time to lay a solid budgetary and administrative foundation for the new commission. Working together with the Legislature and the governor, we are convinced we can make the PRC a model regulatory agency.
In the upcoming legislative session, the commission leadership will be requesting supplemental fiscal year 2022 appropriations, a 12.8 percent budget increase for fiscal year 2023 and improved budget language authority. These are critical requests that we hope will draw widespread support from the executive and legislative branches, as well as utility stakeholders.
Every New Mexican deserves a clean energy future, but that requires a PRC with the resources necessary to fulfill its mission of protecting the public interest and implementing the state’s energy-related legislation.
The current commission is committed to doing everything we can to support New Mexico’s bright energy future. We would only ask the executive and legislative branches to work together with us to fully empower us to move forward into the future envisioned in their trailblazing legislative initiatives.
Joseph Maestas represents Public Regulation Commission from District 3, while Stephen Fischmann is the PRC representative for District 5.