I spent some time yesterday on a story that encapsulates a lot of energy issues here in New Mexico.
Southeastern New Mexico is oil patch country, sitting atop the Permian Basin. Oil production there has long been in decline, but we’re seeing a bit of a boomlet there. $135 a barrel oil will do that. Meanwhile, there also is a uranium enrichment plant under construction down there as well. All that economic activity means increased electricity demand – both the direct electricity needs of the projects, but simply all those people watching TV at night and eating out at the new microbrewery and such.
As a bonus power demand issue, apparently farmers have switched a lot of their irrigation pumps over to electricity from other fuel sources, especially natural gas, as those sources got more expensive.
Xcel, the power company, has a new natural gas plant about to come on line to help meet all of this need. But the plant’s not quite done, which means there is a non-zero chance of rolling blackout this summer:
Xcel Energy, which supplies electricity across a swath from Tucumcari to Carlsbad, is warning customers that they might see hour-long electricity shutoffs during peak air conditioning season because there is not enough electricity to go around.
Rapid electricity demand growth in the region, both because of the booming oil and gas industry and a shift by farmers to electricity to power their irrigation pumps, is the core of the problem, said Wes Reeves, a spokesman for Xcel.
“The supply has just not kept up,” Reeves said.
Why hasn’t the supply kept up? The usual answer is local NIMBY politics.
In this case, it’s the failure to complete construction of a new power plant on time (see story for details). Folks down in the southeast tend to embrace energy projects, and I’ve heard no NIMBYism related to the new power plant.
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