Brief

New Mexico PRC staff casts doubt on PNM's smart meter proposal

Dive Brief:

  • Public Service Co. of New Mexico's plan to replace 531,000 older electricity meters with advanced metering infrastructure is facing close scrutiny from staff at the Public Regulation Commission, which say the utility has overstated the benefits in the early years of its proposal. 
  • Instead of saving customers almost $21 million, staff concluded the project would cost $12 million and would not produce sustained savings until 2024, according to reports from Albuquerque Business First.
  • The PRC held a hearing in June on the utility's plan, and another is planned for August.

Dive Insight:

There's more to a smart grid than just a smart meter. That's the message from staff of the New Mexico PRC, who claim PNM has overstated the benefits of a proposed AMI rollout

"The installation of smart meters alone does not constitute a smart grid and is not sufficient to realize some of the benefits claimed by PNM," Heidi Pitts, a PRC staff economist, said in testimony. She added that the utility should be doing more customer outreach and education, but also that it must be incentivized to do so.

A spokesperson for PNM told Albuquerque Business First that the utility is standing by its analysis of the projects costs and benefits.

A decision is expected by the end of the year. Some customers have criticized PNM for not being as transparent about the project as it could, and the project would also mean about 125 meter readers employed by the utility would lose their jobs.

The advanced meters could enable a range of new services and more accurate readings of efficiency. In April, PNM filed its 2015 Energy Efficiency Annual Report, telling regulators its customers saved more than 1.9 billion kWh and received $55 million in rebates.

The utility said through its efficiency offerings, PNM customers saved more than 1.9 billion kWh hours of since 2007, and it has submitted a proposal to expand its customer energy saving discount and rebate programs.

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Top image credit: portland general