Staff at the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission are skeptical of Public Service Co. of New Mexico’s plan to install more than 500,000 smart meters. The regulatory staff said customers might not see savings until 2024.
Staff at the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission said during July hearings that the proposed replacement of 531,000 electric meters with smart meters would cost customers $12 million, instead of saving the $21 million estimated by PNM, according to hearing documents.
Under the existing proposal, installation of the meters would begin in late 2017 and wrap up in mid-2019. Customers would be provided with opt-out fees if they do not want a smart meter installed in their homes.
The staff experts told the commission on July 15 that the projected costs are uncertain, that the project might not produce savings for eight years, and that as a result, the staff could not support the project proposal as filed.
If the commission were to approve the project, staff recommended that the utility’s ability to recover its costs be capped and that it be required to file annual reports comparing the project’s actual revenue requirements to the projected revenue requirements.
The regulatory staff said that while it is supportive of smart meter technology, the benefits in PNM’s proposal are likely to accrue for shareholders faster than they do for customers.
“Merely installing the meters and waiting to see how ratepayers use the data may not provide results indicating that the project is useful or successful,” Heidi Pitts said in her testimony on behalf of the commission’s utility division staff. Instead, PNM should develop a consumer behavior plan to maximize participation from its customers, she said.
But PNM stands by its project and its filed proposal, according to a spokesman for the utility.
“Our filing demonstrates a clear customer benefit through both the additional services that would be available with the addition of smart meters and an overall savings on bills,” said Pahl Shipley, a spokesman for PNM.
By Laura D’Alessandro
Integrated Media Editor