Last May, Public Service of New Mexico (PNM) held a meeting in Silver City to get the public's input on PNM's plan to eliminate the use of coal by 2031. I don't know why they hold these meetings, it must be a legal requirement, because as far as I can tell the "public input" is inputted to PNM's circular file, never to be seen again.
At these meetings, and this one was no exception, there are always environmentalists who claim that renewable energy is cheaper than coal. This is absurd, and PNM knows it. My question, asked at the meeting and so far unanswered: "What would my bill be if PNM generated electricity 100% from renewables?"
PNM should be able to answer this because they have been operating an electricity storage facility for over two years. It was once heralded as "the nation's first solar storage facility fully integrated into a utility's power grid." (Renewable Energy World, 3/2/15)
Why is this important? Because if PNM is going to provide all of our electricity from renewables, they have to be able to provide electricity at midnight when the wind isn't blowing, i.e. when no electricity is coming in that is generated from solar panels or wind mills.
"Where does PNM then get the electricity?" is the first question environmentalists never ask. Answer: Stored electricity. The second question they never ask is, "How much does stored electricity cost?" Answer: A LOT!
I have no idea why PNM doesn't come up with a cost estimate. Is the chairman of the board at PNM trying to shield her fellow environmentalists from reality? Does anybody at PNM actually know, or care, what the cost of 100% renewable energy would be? After all, there's a world to save. Let the little people worry about cost.
Well, fellow Lilliputians, since we're the ones paying the bill, let's generate a cost estimate on our own.
Elon Musk, the Tesla founder, has just completed a $50 million project in Australia called "the world's largest battery." Tesla makes electric cars and is a company usually credited with having the world's most advanced battery technology.
The $50 million facility will generate enough electricity to supply 30,000 homes for one hour. Repeat: One hour. I am going to guess that there are about 15,000 homes in Grant County, so the Tesla facility would give us about two hours of electricity. If we wish to have enough electricity to last from 6:00 PM to 6:00 AM on the darkest night of the year, we would need six Tesla facilities for that 12 hours of storage which would cost $300 million. Just for Grant County.
A $300 million debt offering, amortized over the 10-year estimated life of the battery facility and at a 4% rate of interest, would cost Grant County denizens an average of $36 million per year. ($30 million amortization plus $6 million average interest cost.) That's $2,400 per home, or $200 per month. .
This is only for the cost of storage. The cost to generate the electricity to go into that storage is in addition. Furthermore, the above cost estimate is probably low even if my 15,000-home estimate is high, because more than 12 hours of storage would surely be needed, probably at least 20. Plus, the amount of solar/wind capacity installed would need to be three or four times daylight peak demand, with the excess earmarked for storage. Operating and paying for all that extra capacity, capacity way beyond what would be needed with coal plants, is not free.
My organization, Citizens for Electricity Justice and Transparency Now, would like PNM to include in every utility bill a range of cost estimates if PNM was 100% renewable. This could include not just battery storage, but also the estimated costs for other forms of storage, e.g. compressed air, pumped storage, etc. This would give the rate payer a much better idea of what is at stake when people push for 100% renewable electricity, and it would be a real step forward in transparency.
Also, we would like the New Mexico Department of Revenue to tell us what the average income is of those receiving tax-credit subsidies to install solar panels on their homes. We strongly suspect, but can't prove, that those receiving these subsidies are WAY above average in state income and do not deserve to be subsidized by us poor folk.
Finally, you will note on your bill a renewable energy rider that INCREASES your bill, not a renewable energy credit that reduces it. We believe electricity justice demands that those who advocate for renewables should bear the cost of renewables. This could be done if PNM simply asked its customers if they support renewable energy, the current cost of which would be given along with the estimated effect on a person's electric bill given various levels of renewable support.
All of the renewable rider costs would then be paid by those who want renewables, most of whom are probably upper income anyway. That's only electricity justice, isn't it?
Note to readers: Donations to Citizens for Electricity Justice and Transparency Now are NOT deductible. Libertarians do not believe taxpayers should subsidize special interest groups. For details on how to contribute, go to firstname.lastname@example.org. Cash is preferred. ; ~)