FERC and NARUC to Create Joint Federal-State Task Force on Electric Transmission
- Jun 23, 2021 1:18 pm GMT
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) have recently formed a joint federal-state task force on electric transmission. This unique body will explore transmission-related issues to identify and realize the benefits of an improved transmission system, whilst sharing the costs fairly.
The effective development of new transmission infrastructure is essential as the country continues to transition to clean energy resources. Federal and state regulators will be called upon to address numerous issues, including how to plan and finance new transmission infrastructure and how to navigate shared federal-state regulatory authority and processes. It is clear that the time is ripe for greater federal-state coordination and cooperation.
The Texas grid outages in February 2021 underline the significant nature of the problem. Over President’s Day weekend, 70 per cent of ERCOT’s 26 million customers had their electricity service cut off, so did five million people in Mexico. Although the outages had multiple causes – disrupted power supplies, unexpectedly high customer demand, and frozen infrastructure – the consequences were severe. These negative outcomes need to be guarded against in future .
“I am so pleased that FERC is joining with NARUC today to establish this joint task force to consider a variety of transmission-related subjects that will affect how successful efforts will be to build out the transmission grid,” said FERC Chairman Rich Glick. “A big thank you to our friends at NARUC, including Idaho Public Utilities Commission President and this year’s NARUC President, Paul Kjellander, for their hard work in putting this task force proposal together. I’m looking forward to our joint meetings.”
“Our partnership with FERC on this task force presents a much-needed opportunity for state and federal regulators to work collaboratively on transmission issues that affect all stakeholders,” said NARUC President Paul Kjellander. “Our shared authority over how to plan and pay for transmission infrastructure and the rapid pace of the energy transition have made such collaboration an imperative for all of us.”
FERC’s order requests NARUC to nominate up to 10 state regulators to join FERC commissioners on the task force. All task force meetings will be open to the public and will use a dedicated FERC process to provide stakeholders and the public with the opportunity to comment for the record.
Specifically, the task force will seek to:
Identify barriers that inhibit planning and development of optimal transmission necessary to achieve federal and state policy goals, as well as potential solutions to those barriers;
Explore potential bases for one or more states to use FERC-jurisdictional transmission planning processes to advance their policy goals, including multi-state goals;
Explore opportunities for states to voluntarily coordinate to identify, plan and develop regional transmission solutions;
Review FERC rules and regulations regarding planning and cost allocation of transmission projects and potentially identify recommendations for reforms;
Examine barriers to the efficient and expeditious interconnection of new resources through the FERC-jurisdictional interconnection processes, as well as potential solutions to those barriers; and
Discuss mechanisms to ensure that transmission investment is cost effective, including approaches to enhance transparency and improve oversight of transmission investment including, potentially, through enhanced federal-state coordination.
The Biden Administration’s massive infrastructure package looks to provide a potentially useful foundation for overall economic recovery and the stimulation of new clean energy jobs and technologies. The continuing support for renewable energy — as evidenced in the record 2020 wind and solar installations and the Congressional tax credit renewals — will need improved transmission capabilities. Disasters like the Texas shutdown need to be prevented in future and the formation of the FERC-NARUC taskforce is a step forward which should provide positive guidance in the future.
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