(April 2012) MidAmerican Energy awarded a contract to Siemens Energy to supply wind turbines for its 407-MW project expansion. American Electric Power began operating the 580-MW Dresden natural gas-fired combined-cycle power plant. Duke Energy and ChinaHuaneng Group signed a three-year agreement expanding their research cooperation to include coal and carbon capture and sequestration technologies. And others...
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.
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.
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.
New transparency practice turns confidentiality on its head.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently authorized its Office of Enforcement to begin revealing publicly the names of subjects under investigation, as well as summaries of allegations against them, earlier than the commission ever had before. In fact, FERC now may disclose allegations before finding any wrongdoing. This new practice raises the specter of damaging reputations without following what normally would be considered due process.
NERC confronts a case backlog now numbering in the thousands.
The case backlog of unprocessed electric reliability violations is growing out of control, threatening to “swamp” the industry — a sign, perhaps, that when Congress and FERC modernized the electric reliability regime to serve a more market-based industry structure, and for the first time gave enforcement authority to North American Reliability Corp. (NERC) as the nation’s official electric reliability czar, no one gave much thought, apparently, as to whether NERC’s very idea of what constitutes reliability might have needed modernizing as well.
Federal policy trumps state siting authority.
Catherine R. Connors et al.
In some states, transmission projects have slowed to a halt as regulators attempt to substitute their own need determinations for those of RTOs. The federal framework encourages cooperation, but Congress and the courts have given FERC clear authority over interstate transmission systems.
FERC modifies its enforcement guidelines.
FERC’s revised policy provides greater predictability and transparency in the commission’s approach to determining civil and criminal penalties under its statutory authority. Despite a more systematic framework, however, FERC retains discretion to assess penalties based on the facts of individual cases.
Performance standards are a valid idea—if targets are achievable.
Hossein Haeri and Eli Morris
Performance standards are a valid and necessary idea to drive conservation, but only if targets are realistic and achievable. So far, success has been determined by program rationality. A uniform, market-based approach would give retailers flexibility to spur innovation.