PNM seeks approval to increase rates

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - Customers may see another utility rate hike, and this time it’s PNM that says it needs more money. The electric company will be asking for a rate hike this year to make up for a drop in energy use, a bad economy, and to help pay for infrastructure.

Locals have seen a similar problem when customers saved so much water, and the Water Utility Authority asked for a rate hike. A PNM Spokesperson said people saving power is just a small part of the reason why they’re asking to raise rates.

For the first time in five years, PNM is asking the Public Regulation Commission to raise basic electric rates for their roughly 500,000 customers.

“I mean it’s not just me, it hurts everybody,” said Jose Hernandez, a PNM customer. It’s something people aren’t looking forward to.

However, PNM claims it’s necessary. “We haven’t for the last five years asked to raise our basic electric rates, and of course the big reason is you don’t do it unless you absolutely have to do it,” said Susan Sponar, PNM spokesperson.

Sponar said the need is partly because customers have been conserving energy. And with a sluggish economy, the electric company hasn’t seen as many new customers as it has in the past.

But the main reason for a rate hike, Sponar said, is to help pay for infrastructure. “The biggest driver will be the ongoing investments that we make that ensure that the power you receive is power you can always rely on, as well as making it cleaner,” Sponar explained.

That means investments in power lines, and power plants. PNM will be building a new natural gas power plant in the Belen area, to help cover the electricity demand.

“We not only have to have power that you need, but we have to have power to spare,” said Sponar.

Something similar is happening on local water bills. With heavy rains and successful conservation efforts, the Water Utility Authority saw revenue shortfalls. Now, people are paying more for water, and the Water Utility Authority may ask for another rate hike next year.

But the PNM rate hike isn’t a done deal. The company will have to make its case, and get approval. “I think people look very carefully whenever somebody wants to raise rates,” said Sponar. “And that’s really as it should be. We should only have a rate increase if we can thoroughly justify it.”

PNM is the biggest electric utility in the state. They’ll file their case for the rate increase by the end of the year.

Sponar said it’s unclear how long it’ll take to get approval, but it could take several months. PNM raised rates by 9 percent in 2011.

PNM officials didn’t say how much they’re looking to raise rates now. If approved, the rate hike would take effect in 2016.

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