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?
Transmission cost allocation, the worth of the grid, and the limits of ratemaking.
A look at the issues that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission must address concerning allocation of costs for certain high-voltage transmission lines 500kV or greater, planned for the PJM region, in the “paper hearing” on remand from the 7th Circuit federal court decision that rejected a socialized, region-wide sharing of costs among all utilities and customers across the RTO footprint.
A trio of eager tech startups confronts an industry intent on preserving the status quo.
In light of all the excitement created by smart-grid regulatory initiatives and stimulus funding, three clever tech startups have come forward with proposals for novel grid projects. In California, Western Grid Development proposes to install energy storage devices ranging in size from 10 to 50 MW at various discrete and strategic locations in PG&E’s service territory where the California ISO has identified reliability problems. Second, a company called Primary Power proposes to deploy a total of four advanced, 500-MVAR static VAR compensators (SVC) at three separate locations within the PJM footprint. Third, in Clovis, N.M., Tres Amigas plans to allow power producers to move market-relevant quantities of electric power and energy between and among the nation’s three asynchronous transmission grids: ERCOT and the Eastern and Western Interconnections.
A billion-dollar ‘gold rush’ could send grid rates through the roof.
Money may be difficult to come by for Wall Street financiers in these dark days, but apparently not for electric transmission construction—at least so far. A rash of recent orders from FERC shows that generous financial incentives remain available to companies seeking to expand the nation’s grid capacity.
Why developers today are often kept waiting to get projects ok’d to connect to the grid.
Late last year FERC learned that the Midwest regional grid likely would require at least 40 years — until 2050 — simply to clear its backlog of proposed gen projects awaiting a completed interconnection agreement to certify their compatibility with the interstate power grid. But grid engineers would meet that date only by shortening the process and studying multiple projects simultaneously in clusters. To apply the process literally, studying one project at a time, as envisioned by current rules, the Midwest reportedly would need 300-plus years to clear its project queue.
Electric shortages and the generation overbuild continue to co-exist.
While maintaining its stance as the most sophisticated competitive electricity market in the country, PJM still faces several challenges, all of which are augmented by its expanded footprint. Most prominent is the RTO’s plan to implement a new reliability pricing model. Further, parts of PJM are ailing from transmission congestion issues that limit access to abundant, cheap power sources in the region.
Critics say its new budget and business plan could simply duplicate the work of RTOs.
FERC granted formal certification to NERC as the nation’s sole ERO and reliability czar, making it inevitable that NERC would delegate the job of regional enforcement to its various regional reliability councils, already constituted. To understand why FERC acted as it did, turn back the clock nearly a decade.
Beware even the best of attempts at apportioning grid rights and costs.
Several recent complaints involving PJM and now at FERC pose fundamental questions on how regulators and grid operators should attempt to price and allocate grid rights and costs. Is the transmission network a public asset, with costs that must be apportioned on principles of equity? Or, rather, is transmission an instrument of commerce, to be priced so as to maximize trade?
By trying to placate regulated states—letting utilities “opt out” from its capacity market—PJM finds its RPM idea under fire.
While the PJM Interconnection has made no major changes to its prototype capacity market since it proposed the idea a year ago in August, and though it has won a tacit OK from federal regulators for many of the plan’s key elements, don’t expect to see a slam dunk when the time comes for a final review of the controversial idea, known as the Reliability Pricing Model.
Incentives for transmission investment could boost postage-stamp pricing over license-plate rates.
FERC proposed a new set of regulations, under the new section 219 of the Federal Power Act, explaining in broad outline how it might approve generous financial incentives for new investments in transmission—incentives once dubbed as “candy.” As of mid-January, the new NOPR had spawned more industry comment than just about any other FERC proposal in recent memory.