If “perfect” be the enemy of the “good,” then look no further for proof than in Federal Power Act section 217(b)(4), enacted by Congress in EPACT 2005.
Electric Reliability Sanctions or Commerce?
EARLIER IN THIS DECADE, FERC CHAIRMAN MARTIN ALLDAY delivered his famous quote: "Everybody is somebody's native load customer."
Today, that truism has fallen under attack. It could go out the window if power marketers get their wish. One group of marketers has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to open a new rulemaking on electric system reliability. This group proposes to end the notion of transmission responding to load. Instead, they want energy suppliers and consumers to purchase reliability: "The very concepts of load server and native load are anachronisms that should be replaced with the nomenclature of markets: seller and buyer."
Meanwhile, the North American Reliability Council is going in the opposite direction. In its efforts to reform from within, NERC sees the problem as one of converting voluntary compliance to mandatory enforcement. That means legitimizing a system of top-down sanctions (i.e., a new independent organization with open governance and government supervision). Like solving an engineering puzzle, experts would decide what the grid can accommodate and enforce their decisions through curtailments.
The Power Marketer Coalition
On March 25, the same day that Energy Secretary Peña announced the Clinton Administration's bullet points for new federal legislation for electric restructuring, a group of power marketers filed their petition at the FERC. They invited the Commission to open a new docket that could prove as complex as Order 888.
The coalition of power marketers is a diverse group. (See notes following sidebar, "Favoring Commerce: The Grid for Sale?") It includes ELCON, the Electric Consumers Resource Council. Its petition follows on the heels of a complex series of events at the FERC.
Late last summer, the Coalition for Private Tariffs, or CAPT, a smaller group of marketers that included ELCON, filed a complaint with the FERC asking it to compel NERC to cease and desist enforcing its transaction tagging rules, created under NERC's Operating Policy 3, also known as "iTIS," (the interim Transaction Information System). The tagging rules (attached as an exhibit to the CAPT complaint) used a computer-based electronic spreadsheet to identify parameters for interchange transactions, including all intermediary control areas along the contract path (not just the buyer and seller), making all data available to all control areas along the way, many run by utilities that compete with marketers. As CAPT said in its initial complaint, the tagging rules appeared to violate statements FERC's exclusive jurisdiction over electronic scheduling of transmission access.
Later, CAPT reworked its complaint to focus on how tagging had affected access to transmission: "CAPT is aware of at least 17 instances in which the failure or inability to take was the sole reason [for] a transmission provider¼ refusing or cutting transmission service." The FERC then assigned a new docket to the case. (See, Motion of CAPT, Docket rm95-9-003, filed Aug. 27, 1997; Supp. Motion of CAPT, Docket No. el97-58-000, filed Sept. 10, 1997.)
The case attracted comments from all over (em including the Edison Electric Institute, American Public Power Association the Electric Power Supply Association, the Transmission Access Policy Study Group, the Southwest Power Pool and PJM (supporting companies