Six years after Congress granted FERC “backstop” siting authority for electric transmission projects in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the regulatory landscape is still evolving as a result of...
With no guidance yet from FERC, Atlantic Wind is forced to wait.
pricing benefits, but claim to help advance state or federal energy policy. Such a ruling by FERC would give PJM the go-ahead to give planning consideration to such policy projects.
However, it turns out that PJM since last year has been hedging its bets—exploring for itself, without direction from FERC, whether it should revise its grid planning process on its own to consider giving weight to public policy needs.
After all, the Midwest and California grid systems already have won partial approvals from FERC to implement planning schemes that consider policy-driven projects alongside those that address reliability or grid congestion.
In fact, last year PJM asked its Regional Planning Process Task Force (RPPTF) to evaluate and make recommendations to implement additional transmission planning criteria or procedures to include a broader range of assumptions that would be required to plan for public policy initiatives, such as renewable resource integration.
And, at a meeting this past January of PJM’s Transmission Owner’s Agreement Administrative Committee (TOA-AC), PJM staff stated that they were moving ahead on the idea despite legal uncertainty about the scope of PJM authority in this area, given the lack of guidance from FERC.
These developments led Atlantic Wind to state at the March 31 press conference that the project sponsors anticipated that PJM eventually would modify its planning process to accommodate policy-driven projects, and that AWC would submit a request for approval as part of PJM’s RTEP regime, as soon as that happened.
Meanwhile, however, a number of PJM member utilities, including the PSE&G Companies, the PPL Companies, Rockland Electric and Baltimore Gas & Electric, have urged PJM to jettison these plans, arguing that it’s unwise to attempt to go forward without clear guidance from FERC.
Even in New Jersey, where Gov. Chris Christie recently signed the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act to promote offshore wind projects for the Garden State, the state’s Board of Public Utilities has taken sides against PJM in trying to augment grid planning rules:
“It would be inappropriate,” the BPU stated in commenting on FERC’s NOPR initiative, “to permit PJM members to set public policy that is presumably based on state and federal goals and regulations.”
In a letter dated March 28 and addressed to the PJM Board of Managers, PSE&G, PPL, Rockland and BG&E asked PJM to defer its proposed changes to the RTEP process “until there is greater legal certainty and clarity on this issue.”
That drew a response from Exelon’s v.p. for transmission operations and planning, Susan Ivey, who wrote to PJM’s Board Chairman Howard Schneider on April 4:
“In Exelon’s opinion, the question is not whether PJM should include public policy assumptions in development of the RTEP, but how to do so.”