A pragmatic new approach to assuring reliability.
Randall Speck and Kimberly Frank
The latest dispute over PJM’s bidding rules has raised the level of uncertainty in organized electricity markets. Efforts at reform have created a market structure so jumbled that it can’t produce just and reasonable rates -- or assure adequate supply resources. It’s time for FERC to consider alternative approaches to market design.
Second thoughts on transmission’s golden egg.
The electric utility industry offers up a wealth of ideas on how the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission might reform its policy, adopted under FERC Order 679 in 2006, of granting financial incentives for investments in transmission line projects that ensure reliability or mitigate line congestion so as to reduce the cost of delivered power. Fortnightly’s Bruce W. Radford reports.
EPA, mercury and electric reliability.
The energy industry has known for decades that federal regulators eventually would set rules under the Clean Air Act to govern emissions of mercury and other air toxics from coal-fired power plants. However, with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency now having issued a final mercury rule, along with guidelines for possible extensions of the compliance deadline, utilities and power plant owners finally have a clear idea what they are up against. And the outlook isn't pretty. The challenge is to retrofit many hundreds of generating plants across the country--and all on the same three-year compliance schedule. Yet two wildcards remain in play: what deference the EPA will give to electric reliability needs, as it "consults" with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the North American Electric Reliability Council; and how effective FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff will be as Republican leadership in Congress works to derail the new rules.
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.
In an October order, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) trimmed the authorized rate incentive for the RITELine transmission project by one-third. The action prompted Commissioner Moeller to ask whether the commission is retreating from its incentive policy on needed transmission lines.
FERC’s move might appear calculated to send a message to the power industry.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in mid-October granted a trimmed-down set of rate incentives for the proposed $1.6 billion RITELine transmission line project.
From EPAct to Order 1000, siting authority continues evolving.
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 federal court decisions and new FERC orders. But despite a lack of certainty at the federal level, project sponsors have filed numerous applications at the state level for new transmission projects. Can these projects proceed without greater certainty at FERC?
In the Pacific Northwest, you either spill water or spill wind.
The wind power industry has been up in arms ever since the Bonneville Power Administration earlier this year announced its Interim Environmental Redispatch and Negative Pricing Policy. That policy, applicable during periods of high spring runoff and heavy water flow volumes on the Federal Columbia River Power System, calls for BPA to redispatch and curtail access to transmission for wind power generating turbines, and to replace that resource with hydroelectric power generated via BOA hydroelectric dams, in order to avoid having to divert water through dam spillways, which could threaten fish and wildlife by creating excess levels of Total Dissolved Gas (TDG), which can cause Gas Bubble Trauma. Yet the legal issue remains unclear: Does this practice imply discrimination in the provision of transmission service, or is it simply a matter of system balancing and generation dispatch? In fact, the FERC may lack jurisdiction over the dispute, as it pertains to the fulfillment of BPA’s statutory mandates.
But transmission planning, as we know it, may never be the same.
The recent landmark ruling on transmission planning cost allocation, known as “Order 1000,” and issued by the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in late July 2011, could well produce an unintended side effect — the formation of regional compacts among states to identify needs and plan for development of new power plant projects.
The smart grid and the slippery business of setting industry standards.
Four years ago, Congress made its wishes known: it tabbed the National Institute of Standards and Technology to develop a set of standards for the smart grid, and then instructed FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission “adopt” those standards, but only after finding a ”sufficient consensus,” and only “as may be necessary” to assure “functionality and interoperability.” Yet what is known is not necessarily clear. Who decides if consensus prevails? What does “interoperability” mean? Should FERC’s “necessary” finding extend to retail smart grid applications, arguably outside its purview? And the biggest dispute — must standards be mandatory? — finds PJM at odds with much of the utility industry.
With no guidance yet from FERC, Atlantic Wind is forced to wait.
Touted as the nation’s first-ever “offshore transmission highway,” the proposed Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC) high-voltage power line in theory could foster dozens of wind farms in shallow offshore costal waters up and down the mid-Atlantic seaboard — but only if federal regulators can get buy-in for new transmission planning rules that give precedence to large, macro projects aimed at boosting renewable energy. Otherwise, the grid project might never pass muster with the engineers charged with OK’ing new power lines, since the AWC is probably not needed to maintain reliability, and likely would not make electricity rates any cheaper for East Coast ratepayers. Should wind energy developers start with massive grid projects to attract clusters of wind turbines, or should the wind farms come first?