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On Monday, January 6, the Board of Trustees of the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) voted unanimously to require mandatory compliance from its regional and affiliate councils with all reliability "policies" adopted by NERC. Previously, the regional councils (MAPP, ERCOT, ECAR, etc.) were only required to give their "best efforts" to comply.
As the board explains, "Compliance with NERC rules needs to be insured, but peer pressure will not be sufficient."
This new vote stems from "A Call to Action," mailed out on October 28 by Richard J. Grossi, NERC chairman. In that letter, citing outages that plagued the West last summer, Grossi hinted of new changes: "It will mean modification of the voluntary confederation of reliability groups that has worked so successfully, to a new model... to deal with a very different industry than when NERC was formed nearly three decades ago."
But change has been brewing for some time.
"this is something that goes back several years," says Eugene F. Gorzelnik, NERC's communications director.
"You may remember the NERC 2000 report published back in September 1993, which led to the formation of the original "Future Role of NERC Task Force," which called for the various regional councils to open up their membership roles to independent power producers (IPPs), power marketers, and so forth, and to form ties with regional transmission groups and other organizations.
"We figured that would take us through the year 2000," Gorzelnik explains."But then the FERC came out with its NOPR [notice of proposed rulemaking] in the spring of 1995, and things started to move quicker. And then obviously the disturbances last summer in the WSSC speeded things up even more."
So what's in store for NERC? Can it keep up with changes in the electric industry?
"One of the Group"
When I started looking into the "new NERC," I wanted to know what the power marketers and IPPs were thinking. Was NERC really opening up to new industry players? So I called two of these new players: Carol Cunningham, a designated IPP member of NERC's engineering committee, and Darrell Hayslip, who holds a power marketer slot on NERC's operating committee.
I learned that NERC operates at two levels-national and regional. While I heard nothing but praise for NERC's efforts on the national committees, some doubts emerged for regional participation.
"My experience has been very positive," says Cunningham. "I'm sure a lost of that comes from my experience at ECAR." At the national meetings, says Cunningham, "If a lot of the ECAR guys get together and say, 'Let's have dinner,' I'm treated as one of the group."
The same story comes from Darrell Hayslip, vice president and general manager for Destec Power Services (a power marketer), speaking from Houston: "The folks who sit across from you at the table are very interested in opening up the system."
If IPPs and power marketers aren't yet full players, then the blame may lie with a manpower shortage. "Getting an IPP to commit to attend these meetings has been difficult," says Cunningham. "There's no doubt about it-our IPP members