Transmission cost allocation, the worth of the grid, and the limits of ratemaking.
A look at the issues that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission must address concerning allocation of costs for certain high-voltage transmission lines 500kV or greater, planned for the PJM region, in the “paper hearing” on remand from the 7th Circuit federal court decision that rejected a socialized, region-wide sharing of costs among all utilities and customers across the RTO footprint.
Increasing renewable generation threatens reliability.
An increased reliance on renewable energy could threaten reliability of the nation’s electric transmission grids by reducing the rotational mass and rotational inertia of on-line turbine generators, thus, reducing the capability of generators to respond to drops in voltage frequency. In fact, data collected from 1994 to 2009 for the Eastern Interconnection already reveals a drop in the grid’s capability (as measured in megawatts) to stop a very rapid drop in frequency — such as a drop of a tenth of a cycle per second.
FERC owns more than one enforcement tool. Besides civil penalties, it can require compliance plans or disgorgement of unjust profits, or condition, suspend, or revoke market-based rate authority, NGA certificate authority, or NGA blanket certificate authority. And lacking criminal penalty authority itself, FERC can refer matters to the U.S. Department of Justice for criminal prosecution. Moreover, while defining an organization as any entity other than a natural person, FERC nevertheless will continue to determine civil penalties for natural person violators, looking to the guidelines for guidance in setting such penalties.
How merchant funding is remaking the rules for renewables.
Six weeks ago, FERC opened a notice of inquiry to invite industry comments on whether wind, solar, and other intermittent energy sources face unfair obstacles in wholesale power markets. Now assigned their own acronym—VERs, for “variable energy resources”—renewables make up a growing percentage of the nation’s energy supply portfolio. But as FERC notes, they present “unique challenges,” especially in terms of constraints on location and limits on the degree to which system operators can control or dispatch individual VER units. Thus, FERC suggests that certain common rules and practices, such as those for unit commitment, dispatch, and scheduling, might make it overly difficult to integrate VERs into the grid.
Economists take sides in the battle for DR’s soul.
Back when the U.S. economy and power consumption still were bubbling, PJM reported in August 2006 that customer curtailments during a week-long August heat wave had generated more than $650 million in market-wide energy savings—all at a mere $5 million cost, as measured in direct payments made to the demand response (DR) providers, set according to wholesale power prices prevailing at the time. Where else but the lottery can you get an instant payoff of 130-1?
Bruce W. Radford and Michael T. Burr
1. High Court Reconsiders ‘Just and Reasonable’ Standard; 2. EPA Endangerment Finding: Implementing; 3. Paying the Postage for Grid Expansion; 4. Weighing the Certainty of Climate Change; 5. Lawful Emissions Deemed Public Nuisance; 6. Not Quite a Leak-proof Backstop; 7. FERC Bends Rules to Boost Renewables; 8. An ‘Anchor’ for Merchant Transmission; 9. Texas Throws a Curve at Small Wind Developers; 10. Resource Adequacy.
Lawyers say what they really think about changing policies.
Michael T. Burr, Editor-in-Chief
Lawyers get a bad rap in this country, and in some cases it’s well earned. However, during the month of October I enjoyed the distinct privilege of interviewing nearly a dozen of the industry’s most insightful, informed and hard-working people—all of them law-firm lawyers serving energy companies, regulatory agencies and customer groups.
How much efficiency do ratepayers need—and utilities want?
When the applause dies down, the smart grid may turn out to be its own worst enemy. The California Independent System Operator (CAISO) explained this irony in comments it filed in May, after the FERC asked the industry for policy ideas on the smart grid.
The industry debates how far FERC should go.
Since the Energy Policy Act was enacted in 2005, the domestic power and gas industry has experienced several years of FERC compliance enforcement history. Including the settlements entered into in 2007, total penalties levied and agreed to by companies are close to $100 million over the past two years. Given the high stakes, some industry stakeholders have suggested that FERC could provide more comprehensive guidance on what it means to have an adequate compliance program and what constitutes that compliance.
Renewable mandates will shift power to FERC but pose problems for RTOs.
A recent survey conducted by the U.S Office of Personnel Management and reported by the Washington Post on March 13 ranked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as eighth best of some 37 federal agencies in terms “talent,” and third in “leadership and knowledge.”