You can’t say the subject matter at the June 22 “Alternative Energy” luncheon, staged by the Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce at the Italian American Association building, was biased.
After hearing the merits of an environmentally friendly electric vehicle (EV), at least a handful of the sold-out 132 attendees seemed uninterested in owning an EV. Not many were enthused about waiting for a half-hour to get a charge, nor the 300 miles that charge would allow, for example, and even fewer miles if the air conditioning or heater was on.
And of course, that half-hour assumes nobody else was using the charging unit, of which there was said to be 238 public charging units around the state already.
It made sense early, as PNM’s Alaric Babej, heading customer energy solutions, told attendees of two old photos from New York City – one showing a single automobile and countless horses; another, taken a few years later, depicting one horse and countless autos, which he termed an “overwhelming change in the transportation industry.”
He also likened the emergence of EVs to that of cellphones in the 21st century, when people took a wait-and-see attitude, at first preferring their landlines – and now, only senior citizens and the elderly seem reluctant to add a cellphone and all the information at their fingertips available on those devices.
“There’s so much interest and misinformation out there,” Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jerry Schalow told the audience, finding it ironic that New Mexico is not just one of the nation’s leaders in alternative energy – think solar panels and wind turbines – but also among the U.S.’s largest producers of oil and gas.
“PNM is preparing for this (EV surge),” Babej said, with PNM’s market-based approach to energy, and there are various forms of consumer rebates available to those purchasing EVs.
Babej said there’ll be a day when mass transportation uses EVs, including city buses and school buses, and he also delved into PNM programs for solar energy, also with “attractive savings” for consumers.
“Things are going to change very, very rapidly,” Babej added. “EVs are a very attractive option.”
Then, with a couple examples of EVs parked outside, Andy Strebe, general manager of Chalmers Ford in Rio Rancho, talked about EVs and hybrids, which also have gas available to power a vehicle.
It wasn’t hard for attendees to envision being on a long trip through New Mexico and running out of electrical power, making it nice to rely on the fuel backup option.
“Hybrids cover both worlds,” Strebe said, adding that Ford also has incentives to attract buyers.
Also explaining the way their companies are taking steps into the future to conserve energy and be economically friendly, Chris McMillian of New Mexico Gas Company described the planned $181 million liquified natural gas plant in southern Rio Rancho, as well as its safety and security aspects, which needs an OK from the Public Regulation Commission, hoped for in October, for plant completion in late 2025 or early 2026.
Jarred McDonald told attendees about the innovative way Waste Management, which now goes by WM, trucks are fueled with compressed natural gas for “clean and renewable energy.”
Locally, McDonald stressed, WM has invested $10.8 million in its infrastructure in the City of Vision.
Lastly, the PNM Biz Energy Efficiency Star Awards were doled out to Enchanted Hills Apartments, Sandoval Regional medical Center, Defined Fitness and Rio Rancho Public Schools, all with exemplary energy savings and/or lower water consumption over the past year.
Arguably, Babej had the best line at the luncheon: “The greatest energy efficiency is energy you don’t use,” which includes turning off lights in a room when nobody’s in it.