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Enchant Energy says PNM sale to Avangrid will not stop proposed carbon capture project

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times

AZTEC — A sale of Public Service Company of New Mexico's parent company, PNM Resources, to a subsidiary of a Spanish firm will not have significant impacts on Enchant Energy’s proposal to retrofit the San Juan Generating Station with carbon capture technology, according to a joint statement Farmington and Enchant Energy released.

PNM, the state’s largest utility and the majority owner of the San Juan Generating Station, received approval earlier this year to end its operations of the power plant in 2022. PNM Resources and Spanish-based utility Iberdrola’s subsidiary Avangrid announced the pending sale on Oct. 21.

However, an ownership agreement between the various San Juan Generating Station owners allows Farmington to acquire the power plant and transfer the asset to Enchant Energy.

This option remains intact even with the announced sale, which is still pending regulatory approval.

“We look forward to working with PNM/AVANGRID and the other San Juan owners to finalize our transfer agreement in order to fully participate in the changing energy market and the affordable, reliable and low-carbon electric power, jobs and tax revenues that will result from carbon capture at San Juan Generating Station,” said Farmington Mayor Nate Duckett in the statement.

The transfer of the power plant relies on successful negotiations between Enchant Energy and the current power plant's owners, including PNM, Tucson Electric Power, Los Alamos County and Utah AMPS.

San Juan Generating Station is pictured on Friday, Dec. 22, 2017 in Waterflow.

“The announcement by AVANGRID and PNM underscores the extremely dynamic nature of the electric energy and utility industries,” said Enchant Energy CEO Cindy Crane in the joint statement.

Meanwhile, environmental advocates, including San Juan County residents, expressed optimism about the pending sale.

“We look forward to more details on how Avangrid intends to invest in significant renewable energy innovation in the Four Corners region, in line with PNM’s current actions in accordance with the Energy Transition Act,” said Farmington resident Mike Eisenfeld, the energy and climate program manager for San Juan Citizens Alliance. “Our expectation is that retiring coal plants require comprehensive transition planning with renewable energy replacement that provides investment for the community and workers.” 

New Energy Economy Executive Director Mariel Nanasi, center, asks questions while inspecting an arroyo, Monday, Oct. 28, 2019, near the San Juan Generating Station.

As of Oct. 21, a docket had not been opened with the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission to transfer the ownership.

Mariel Nanasi, the executive director of New Energy Economy, said the consumer protection and environmental advocacy group plans to intervene in the case when PNM files to transfer the ownership to Avangrid. Already, New Energy Economy has concerns about the pending new owner of the state's largest utility.

At left, New Energy Economy Executive Director Mariel Nanasi walks toward a sealed pond, on Monday, Oct. 28, 2019, while touring San Juan Generating Station in Waterflow.

New Energy Economy highlights that Avangrid-owned utility Central Maine Power, the largest investor-owned utility in Maine, has been at the center of community battles, including efforts to replace it with a consumer-owned utility. 

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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