The old rules don’t always fit with new commercial realities.
Glenn J. Berger and Cheryl Foley
To encourage billions of dollars of investment into America’s transmission grid over the next several decades, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is restructuring its regulatory policies to bring market-based solutions into the framework for planning, construction, and operation of new transmission lines. The recent Order 1000 is the most dramatic example of this effort. But as FERC has learned before, one set of rules doesn’t serve the financial and commercial needs of all market participants.
Why the green grid might do better without open access.
Are the Feds at war with green power development? You might have thought so, if you had sat through the conference held March 15, 2011, at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, where the consensus seemed to be that FERC’s policy of granting open-access rights on electric transmission lines is problematic for green power projects. In short, when wind and solar developers choose to build their own local tie lines to link their projects to the larger grid, FERC policy forces them to make extra line capacity available to rival developers. That requirement doomed the novel Wind Spirit Project, and continues to complicate the job of project financing.
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.
FERC fights for the green-grid superhighway—even if Congress won’t.
The Senate’s deadlock over carbon cap-and-trade legislation has not deterred FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff from an agenda bent on promoting renewable energy and fighting climate change. Last fall, even as Congress dithered, FERC launched a landmark initiative that likely will lead to sweeping new rules for expanding the nation’s electric transmission grid, grounded on Wellinghoff’s belief in wind, solar, and green power resources.
Legal and regulatory changes are transforming the industry.
This year has marked a sea change in energy policy, from environmental compliance to transmission pricing. Fortnightly interviews top lawyers to better understand how regulatory developments are affecting the power and gas industries.
Subsidies might not be the best solution for interconnecting renewables.
Supporters of renewable energy are seeking to socialize the cost of a new interstate highway system for transporting green power. But utilities and transmission owners will build or finance new transmission systems to serve economic demands. Policy makers shouldn’t pre-ordain the direction of industry progress.
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.”
ITC and AEP jockey for the lead in building the grid of tomorrow.
On February 9, a group of the nation’s major grid system operators released a study estimating the nation’s electric industry sector needs to spend some $80 billion—more than 10 times the size of that portion of the Obama stimulus package directed specifically at transmission construction—in order to achieve a 20 percent retail penetration for renewable wind energy in just the Eastern Interconnection.