FERC Meeting: Cooperating with IG Probe on Grid Info Leak, Rejecting NTTG Order No. 1000 Filing

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Acting Chairman Cheryl LaFleur said the commission is cooperating with a government investigation on the leak of a memo on grid vulnerabilities at FERC’s monthly meeting Thursday.

The commission rejected parts of a compliance filing from Northern Tier Transmission Group on its Order No. 1000 proposal for transmission planning and cost allocation. FERC also asked three grid operators and Florida Power and Light Company to make changes to their plans for carrying out an order (No. 764) to integrate renewable resources into the grid.  (You can see the full agenda here and the order summaries here.)

Commissioner Discussion Highlights:

    • Acting Chairman Cheryl LaFleur said FERC is working closely with the Energy Department’s inspector general on a probe of how a sensitive memo on grid vulnerabilities was leaked. LaFleur said the IG is “expeditiously” reviewing paper and electronic documents and will provide recommendations for safeguarding future communications.
    • Commissioner John Norris asked for feedback on a study from the American Wind Energy Association contending that wind energy does not displace other forms of energy.  The study was prompted by arguments that wind energy is distorting market prices primarily made by major utility Exelon, which may have to shut down some of its nuclear power plants this year. Norris said if the report is accurate FERC should not refer to wind power distorting the market and should “get it out of our rhetoric,” particularly as Congress considers an extension of the renewable Production Tax Credit. Commissioner Philip Moeller said he has been outspoken about his concerns that the PTC distorts wholesale markets, but also said FERC has done a lot to promote renewable integration to the grid.
    • Commissioner Tony Clark said he wants to address the concerns of electric utilities that have had slow deliveries of coal shipments because of an increase in oil-by-rail this winter. The Western Coal Traffic League and other groups met with the Department of Transportation’s Surface Transportation Board earlier this month, but Clark said solutions identified would take more than a year. By then, the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards will be taking effect and likely causing coal plant closures that will make supplies tighter, Clark warned. Clark said commitments from BNSF Railway Co. to expand high-traffic routes will be helpful, but “it’s also important railroads understand some of the timing issues we may have with very critical supply resources in a tight market.”

Order No. 1000

FERC asked for more revisions to the Northern Tier Transmission Group’s plans to comply with Order No. 1000, the commission’s transmission planning and cost-allocation rule. The 100-page document explains the details, but staff said the changes they want are not as extensive as what they’ve requested of other regions.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is still reviewing a challenge to the order, but “even if something is on appeal we keep working on compliance,” LaFleur said. Grid organizers have to keep moving forward or they would lose quite a bit of time, she said.

Order No. 764

Order No. 764 requires transmission providers to allow their customers to offer energy at 15-minute intervals instead of the current standard of one hour.  It also requires renewable generators to provide meteorological and forced outage data to transmission providers so they can forecast power production levels.

The commission rejected portions of several plans to implement Order 764.

    • PJM: FERC rejected parts of the PJM Interconnection’s proposal because of the way the mid-Atlantic and Midwest grid operator would allow scheduling changes. PJM would permit intra-hourly scheduling changes up to 20 minutes before the start of the next clock hour, and FERC argues that PJM should let those changes happen 20 minutes before each individual 15-minute interval.
    • Florida Power and Light: The commission rejected Florida Power and Light’s proposal for implementing penalties for companies that do not generate or consume the amount of electricity specified in their contracts. The plan needed an implementation date and details about necessary software modifications, FERC said.

FERC has received Order No. 764 compliance filings from 36 public utilities outside of regional transmission organizations markets and from six RTOs. Only the New York Independent System Operator’s plan has been approved in full, according to staff.

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