PNM says it will look to increase rates by December

Posted at: 09/02/2014 5:53 PM
Updated at: 09/02/2014 5:55 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

ALBUQUERQUE -- People in Albuquerque have been doing a good job of conserving water and energy, and now are being rewarded for it with higher bills.

Water bills jumped 5% this summer in Bernalillo County, on top of another 5% a year ago. Now it's PNM's turn. The electric company says it will be asking state regulators for a rate increase by December.

Water bills increased by $3 a month for the average residential customer on July 1. The reason? A drop in water use. The average person is now using 135 gallons a day, down from 148 gallons last year. That means not enough money is coming in to replace and repair aging water and sewer lines.

"Here we are, trying to conserve and they're raising our bills," said customer Holly Smith. "It seems like the complete opposite of what they should be doing. You can't win, absolutely not. Here we are, trying to conserve as much as we can and we're getting punished for it!"

With electricity, it's a similar story. We're using less juice, so PNM says it needs higher rates to pay for power plants and transmission technology.

"It's like we're in a Catch-22," said customer Michael Silos. "If we do good, we pay. If we don't do good, we pay. One way or the other, we wind up paying. It's not fair at all. They ask us to conserve and we do like they say."

Also driving the need for higher electric bills is New Mexico's low-wattage economy. Business and industry are still stagnant and customer growth is puny. PNM's last rate hike was in 2011, a 9% increase.