PJM and the crisis over FTR underfunding.
PJM’s latest crisis—the underfunding of financial transmission rights that we’ve seen over the last few years—pushes regulators right to the edge. How far do they trust wholesale power markets? Do they accept the idea, proven by a famous economist, that freely traded financial instruments can work just as well—better even—than firm, physical contract rights?
A look at issues facing the commission for the coming year.
Price-Responsive demand, EPA regulations, and merger policy will be on the agenda for the coming year as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission works its way through the list of key cases that were pending at FERC as of January 2011.
When you sell demand response back to the grid, how much capacity are you now not buying?
When customers sell demand response into a regional capacity market (such as PJM’s Reliability Pricing Model, known as the RPM), how much credit should they earn for agreeing to curtail demand and alleviating stress on the grid — that is, for reducing the market’s need for generating capability and capacity reserve margin? And further, should the amount of credit depend on whether the customer works with market aggregators, known both as CSPs (“Curtailment Service Providers”) or ARCs (“Aggregators of Retail Customers”)? One view would pay customers for the full extent of their curtailment of demand — known as its “Guaranteed Load Drop” (GLD). The other would limit capacity credit to the customer’s prior load history — “Peak Load Contribution,” or PLC. The answer may well dictate whether regulators continue to treat “energy” and “capacity” as two distinct concepts.
Out of market means out of luck—even for self-supply.
When the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued its so-called ”MOPR“ decision in April 2011, approving a minimum offer price rule (or bid floor) for PJM RPM capacity market — and then on the very next day did much the same for New England’s FCM capacity market — FERC did more than just prop up prices. Instead, it created a nightmare scenario for utilities that still own their own generation. These utilities, who choose to “self-supply” with their own plants, rather than buy capacity from either the RPM or FCM, adequacy rules, could now be forced to pay twice for capacity — if their own plants are deemed inefficient or uneconomic.
Economists take sides in the battle for DR’s soul.
Back when the U.S. economy and power consumption still were bubbling, PJM reported in August 2006 that customer curtailments during a week-long August heat wave had generated more than $650 million in market-wide energy savings—all at a mere $5 million cost, as measured in direct payments made to the demand response (DR) providers, set according to wholesale power prices prevailing at the time. Where else but the lottery can you get an instant payoff of 130-1?
PJM loses luster in a squabble over market monitoring.
The bottom fell out in the hearing room at FERC on April 5 when witness Joseph Bowring let it slip that, yes, he might well prefer more independence from his employer in his role as chief of the market monitoring unit at the PJM Interconnection.
Joseph Bowring, PJM Market Monitor: ”Pondering PJM's Energy Price Run-Up” by Howard Spinner of the Virginia State Corporation Commission staff raises the question of whether the observed increase in PJM average system prices in the second half of 2005 was the result of fuel-price increases and increased loads, or the result of market power. The results reported in the Spinner article are incorrect; see PJM Energy Prices—2005: Response to Howard M. Spinner Paper.”