City of Socorro Mayor Ravi Bhasker led
the presentation of the municipal electrification project to the School Board Monday
night.
Mayor Bhasker informed the school
board and the audience of about 50 attendees that the city council had been working
towards becoming a municipal electric
supplier for the last seven years.
According to Mayor Bhasker, the City
and New Mexico Tech went to court with
the Socorro Electric Co-op in regards to
their plans to raise their rates, and the
co-op lost that case because the rate structure they proposed “was not good for the
City.” The Public Regulation Commission
ruled against them.
“City council unanimously said that
we will not renew that franchise,” Mayor
Bhasker said. “Either the (Socorro Electric)
co-op has to sell to us or get off our property.”
He said when the City and the Socorro
Electric Co-op went to court, the district
judge decided that the co-op franchise would expire in May 2024 and
the co-op would be evicted from
any properties owned by the City
on that date.
Mayor Bhasker said the plan
for the City of Socorro was to
start at the industrial park corridor first. This includes the
hospital, the nursing home, the
high school, New Mexico Tech,
the new junior high school,
the convention center and the
rodeo complex. The current plan
includes using 20 to 30 % solar,
depending on how much the City
can afford. They also plan to
build their own substation and
put in their own lines.
“We came here to show you
we have a panel of specialists
that the city has been working
with for seven years, and these
specialists are the ones who are
going to help us put this electrical
grid together,” Mayor Bhasker
said. “The bottom line is that we
are planning to give you a discount on how much your electricity is costing. What I want you
to see is that life goes on without
Tri-State.”
Mayor Bhasker said that he
didn’t blame Socorro Electric for
their rates.
“What Tri-State is charging
Socorro Electric is not their fault;
it’s part of their contract that they
made with different managers
for 48 years, and that contract
doesn’t expire for another 25 to
30 years, so they are stuck at a
certain level of cost,” Bhasker
said.
Bhasker estimated that a
buyout with Tri-State could cost
about 11 to 12 million and said
that once it’s paid off, the community will benefit from lower
costs. He estimated that price
based on the $37 million Kit
Carson Co-op paid for their buyout of Tri-State. He pushed for
the Socorro Electric Co-op to
spend the money to figure out the
buyout price. Bhasker acknowledged that, realistically, the City
will not be able to provide electricity by May of 2024, when the
eviction of the Socorro Electric
Co-op will go into effect. The
timeline he gave was two to three
years.
The presentation continued
with Luis Reyes, the CEO of Kit
Carson Electric, who spoke to the
benefits Taos and their schools
experienced when they started
their own electric company, stating that they are 100% solar during the day and have worked with
schools to create curriculums for
students to learn trades in energy
production. Reyes said they paid
off the $37 million buyout to TriState in six years.
Ravi Malhotra, the founder
and president of the International
Center for Appropriate and
Sustainable Technology, spoke
about the billions of dollars in
solar energy incentives available right now. Jeff Hait from
Guzman Energy, Nann Winter,
the City’s utility lawyer, Ed
Reyes from Enchantment Energy
Consulting, and John Lester of
Finley Engineering spoke about
their experiences with electric
co-ops.
School board members asked
questions about cost, inflation,
options, preparation for expansion, phases of the project, and
the intentions of the City.
During questions, Tara
Jaramillo, school board member
and state house representative,
asked the attorney, Nann Winter,
if the schools had a choice if
Socorro Electric was evicted
from city property. She pushed
for answers regarding what would
happen to the school’s access to
electricity during the transition
and eviction.
“Socorro Electric is mandated
to provide you power. No matter what happens, they are your
provider. Meanwhile, the City
of Socorro plans on building.”
Winter said..
Jaramillo also questioned if
the Socorro Electric co-op would
raise their rates due to losing customers and if the new municipal
electric company would have
higher rates as they are starting.
Mayor Bhasker responded,
“They (Socorro Electric Co-op)
would have to go to the Public
Regulations Commission to get
a rate increase first. The City
would help you with solar and
battery storage behind the meter
so that it would offset some of
the increases that would happen.
There may be a burden to bear
for the next four or five years,”
“I think the city and council
are willing to work with the
co-op and work toward this progressive model,” Bhasker said.
“It’s a process.”
At the end of the presentation,
school board member Michael
Hargather said, “I think the
school district falls in a unique
category, where we are split
across the potential plans, and I
don’t think there are any other
entities in the city that could
potentially be purchasing from
two sources,” said Hargather
“It’s an interesting spot for the
district to be in.”

Jessica Carranza Pino, Editor