To get power to Facebook data center, utility pitches its plan again

By Steve Terrell
sterrell@sfnewmexican.com
Posted 5/2/19

Public Service Company of New Mexico did an inadequate job of presenting its case when it asked state regulators to approve a 45-mile transmission line that …

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To get power to Facebook data center, utility pitches its plan again

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Public Service Company of New Mexico did an inadequate job of presenting its case when it asked state regulators to approve a 45-mile transmission line that would supply electricity to the Facebook data facility under construction near Los Lunas, according to the utility's request Monday (April 29) for the Public Regulation Commission to rehear the matter.

That assessment also was expressed in a published opinion piece signed by a high-ranking PNM executive.

"When PNM presented its case, we did not do a good job presenting the full story or describing how the [proposed] transmission line benefits all of our customers throughout the state, not solely Facebook," PNM Senior Vice President Ron Darnell said in the opinion piece in Sunday's Santa Fe New Mexican.

The commission voted unanimously this month to deny PNM's request to have retail customers of the state's largest utility pay for the new line.

"Our initial description of the … line during the PRC hearing did not clearly explain how this project upgrades our entire transmission system and we did not do our job of plainly stating how this project would benefit our customers beyond Facebook," Darnell wrote. "PNM understands our vital role in presenting the commission with a clear picture, and unfortunately, the picture we presented was a bit fuzzy. That's why we are requesting the opportunity to have our case reconsidered."

He wrote the new power line from Clines Corners in Torrance County to Sandoval County would improve reliability for customers across the state and add more renewable energy to the utility's portfolio, and that it would save customers an estimated $21.5 million.

That figure, according to the rehearing request, is based on the projected $65.4 million in revenue from Facebook, minus the $43.9 million cost to customers. Of that total cost to customers, the company said, about $39.9 million would be paid by retail customers, both business and residential, while about $4 million would be billed to wholesale customers.

The proposed high-voltage line would transmit electricity produced by a 166-megawatt wind farm being built by Avangrid Renewables to supply Facebook's data center.

This story first appeared in The New Mexican, a sibling publication of The Taos News.

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