Month: September 2019

FERC Proposes to Modernize PURPA Regulations

FERC Proposes to Modernize PURPA Regulations

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) “proposed to modernize its regulations governing small power producers and cogenerators under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA) to better address consumer concerns and market changes in the energy landscape in recent decades.”

PURPA was enacted by Congress in order to “address the national energy crisis by encouraging the development of small power producers and cogenerators, called qualifying facilities (QFs), to reduce the country’s demand for traditional fossil fuels, which were considered to be in short supply.” Its rules were first enacted by FERC in 1980, and they remain in effect today.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is FERC’s “first comprehensive review of its PURPA regulations.” The changes FERC has proposed is “intended to continue encouraging development of QFs while addressing concerns regarding how the current regulations work in today’s competitive wholesale power markets.”

FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee said, “PURPA laid the foundation for the Commission’s open access transmission policies and the competitive wholesale power markets that we have today. But a lot has changed since 1980. We have seen tremendous technological advancements in renewables, increasing sophistication in competitive electric power markets, and abundant supplies of domestic natural gas. It’s time to modernize the Commission’s implementation of PURPA to reflect those significant developments.”

Chatterjee said that FERC was directed by Congress “to review our policies from time to time to ensure that our regulations continue both to protect consumers and to encourage the development of QFs. That is precisely what we are doing here.”

The proposal “focuses on providing flexibility to state regulatory authorities so they can accommodate recent wholesale power market developments and streamlines the Commission’s policies and practices.” It will allow “states to incorporate market pricing into avoided cost energy rates in various ways, allows states to require energy rates (but not capacity rates) to vary during the life of QF contracts, modifies the ‘one-mile rule,’ and lowers the threshold presumption for nondiscriminatory access to power markets from 20 megawatts to 1 megawatt for small power production, but not cogeneration, facilities. It also requires states to establish objective and reasonable standards for QFs to obtain legally enforceable obligations for the purchase of their power. Finally, the proposal permits protests of a QF’s self-certification or self-recertification without the need to file and pay for a separate petition for declaratory order.”

Comments can be made regarding this notice for up to 60 days after this is published in the Federal Register.

A presentation on the proposal is available here.

Commissioners Richard Glick and Bernard L. McNamee provided statements elaborating on their opinions on the matter.

FERC Releases its Energy Infrastructure Update for July 2019

FERC Releases its Energy Infrastructure Update for July 2019

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued its monthly Energy Infrastructure Update for July 2019. This update covers the news and highlights for energy around the country, in gas, hydropower, and electric generation. In July there were five natural gas pipelines were certified and another five were proposed. One natural gas storage facility was certified. For liquified natural gas (LNG) imports and exports, one export was placed in service, and one import/export was certified.For the year to date, five natural gas pipelines have been placed in service, compared to six at this point in 2018; 19 have been certified, compared to 31 in 2018. No storage facilities have been placed in service this year, as was the case last year as well, but three have been certified, compared to four in 2018. Three LNG import and export facilities have been placed in service, compared to one in 2018; five have been certified, whereas none were at this point last year.

For hydropower, two conventional facilities filed for licenses, and there was no further activity in July. For the year to date, three conventional hydropower facilities have filed for licenses, along with one hydrokinetic facility. One license was issued to a pumped storage facility, and another to a hydrokinetic facility. One 10-MW Exception was issued, and a capacity amendment was issued. Nothing has been placed in service this year.

The electric generation highlights detailed the new and expanded units in July, plus the year to date, and a comparison of this period in 2018. Wind power had three new units this month, bringing the total to 25 for the year; compared to 27 last year. There were also three solar power units in July, bringing that total to 207 for the year; compared to 345 last year. There were no new units for coal, natural gas, nuclear power, oil, water, biomass, geothermal steam, or waste heat in July.

There were a number of proposed additions and retirements of generation units in July; this is all planned to occur by July 2022. Coal had two proposed additions, one that is under construction, and 57 retirements. Natural gas had 224 additions, another 100 under construction, and 109 retirements. Nuclear power had nine additions, one under construction, and nine retirements. Oil had 12 additions, two under construction, and 26 retirements. Hydropower had 220 additions, 84 under construction, and 20 retirements. Wind had 550 additions, 172 under construction, and two retirements. Biomass had 59 additions, 28 under construction, and 28 retirements. Geothermal steam had 18 additions, six under construction, and no retirements. Solar power had 2,622 additions, 580 under construction, and one retirement.

For electric transmissions, in the ≤230 voltage range, there were no lines completed in July, but there were 540 miles proposed to be placed in service by August 2021. In the 345-voltage range, 9.5 miles were completed in July, compared to 39 in 2018. This brings to total for 345 this year up to 299.5, compared to 847.2 in 2018. There were also 752.4 miles of proposed additions. The 500-voltage range did not have anything completed in July, but there were 670 miles proposed to be added.

FERC Issues DEIS for the Bucks Creek Hydropower Project

FERC Issues DEIS for the Bucks Creek Hydropower Project

In June, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released a draft Environmental Impact Statement to relicense the “Pacific Gas and Electric Company and City of Santa Clara, California’s (co-applicants) existing 84.8-megawatt Bucks Creek Hydropower Project No. 619.” The application for the project was filed in December 2016, which is ” located on Bucks, Grizzly,
and Milk Ranch Creeks in Plumas County, California. The project consists of the Bucks Creek and Grizzly Developments and, as proposed, would occupy 1,316 acres of federal lands within the Plumas National Forest.” They also filed a supplemental application in May 2018.

“The project consists of Bucks Creek Powerhouse; Grizzly Powerhouse, and the Grizzly Tap Transmission Line; water storage, diversion, and conveyance facilities associated with the two powerhouses, including Bucks Lake, Lower Bucks Lake, Three Lakes, Grizzly Forebay; and other associated facilities.” They do not plan to “add capacity or make any major modifications to the project or its operations under the new license.” The only modifications they have proposed to make are:

· “Install a Howell-Bunger valve at the end of the existing low-level outlet of Bucks Lake Dam to release the minimum instream flows into Bucks Creek.
· “Enhance existing recreation facilities, including campgrounds, picnic areas, boat launches, day use areas, and trails, and construct a Bucks Lake Shoreline Trail and new facilities at the Bucks Lake Boat-In Campground.”

They also proposed to make changes to the already existing boundary that will: “(1) include existing facilities and roads that are necessary for current and future operation and maintenance (O&M) activities, and recreation development; (2) remove land and roads currently within the
boundary that are not required for project purposes; and (3) reduce the shoreline buffer along project impoundments where project infrastructure and recreation facilities are in proximity to the shoreline.”

FERC found four primary issues with relicensing the Bucks Creek Hydropower Project: “(1) the protection of aquatic habitats including stream flows, water temperature, and recruitment of spawning gravel and woody material; (2) the protection of special-status wildlife species from
human disturbance; (3) the need for additional recreational opportunities and facilities in the project area; and (4) the protection of cultural resources.”

FERC recommended the staff alternative in the draft EIS, “which consists of measures included in the co-applicants’ proposal, as well as most of the mandatory conditions and recommendations made by state and federal agencies and non-governmental organizations, and some additional measures developed by the staff.”

The draft EIS consists of the views of “governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations, affected Indian tribes, the public, the license applicant, and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (Commission) staff.” It has FERC’s evaluations of the proposal as well as some alternatives.

FERC seeks comments on white paper on CIP Standards Notices Penalties

FERC seeks comments on white paper on CIP Standards Notices Penalties

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is seeking comments from the public about a white paper FERC and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) put together. The “white paper proposes to provide transparency and public access to information on violations of mandatory reliability standards governing cybersecurity of the bulk electric
system while protecting sensitive information that could jeopardize security.”

FERC has “received an unprecedented number of Freedom of Information Act(FOIA) requests for non-public information in the Notices of Penalty (NOPs) for violations of Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) reliability standards” since 2018. Since 2010, NERC “has been submitting CIP NOPs to FERC… they typically include information regarding the nature of the violations, potential vulnerabilities to cyber systems as a result of noncompliance, and mitigation activities.” The white paper also “proposes that NERC would submit each notice with a public cover letter that discloses the name of the violator, which reliability standards were violated, and the amount of penalties assessed.” In every notice would be “non-public attachments that detail the nature of the violation, mitigation activity and potential vulnerabilities to cyber systems. These attachments would also contain a request for designation of such information as Critical Energy Infrastructure Information.”

The proposed changes will make it more straightforward to distinguish between public and non-public information, which “should make submission and processing of the notices more efficient while also reducing the risk of inadvertent disclosure of non-public information. While names of violators would be made public, detailed information that could be useful in planning an attack on critical infrastructure, such as details regarding violations, mitigation and vulnerabilities, likely would be considered exempt from FOIA.”

“FERC is seeking comment on many aspects of the white paper, including: the potential security benefits and, if applicable, risks associated with the proposed NOP format; difficulties with implementation or other concerns that should be considered; and the level of transparency provided by this proposed changed.”

The notice of the white paper says that comments need to be filed within 30 days, and FERC “encourages electronic submission of comments in lieu of paper using the ‘eFiling’ link at .” For those who prefer not to file their comments electronically, they can submit their comments to “Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 888 First Street, NE, Washington, DC 20426.” All filings on this will be accessible online, under the eLibrary link. There is an option to subscribe to the docket to be alerted via email when a new document is added. FERC Commissioner Cheryl A. LaFleur issued a statement regarding the white paper, explaining her opinions on the matter.

LaFleur said she “mentioned at our Reliability Technical Conference in June, the handling and confidentiality of these NOPs has been an issue of growing controversy. As I advocated then, I think it is essential that FERC and NERC conduct public process to consider the appropriate balance between transparency and security in these instances. I am very pleased that such a process is being instituted today.”

She explained that the procedures that are currently in place have been there for over a decade, without changing, and she thinks it is good that they consider revising the processes now. “it is important that we handle NOPs so as to avoid subjecting the bulk electric system to risk of a cyber attack once a vulnerability is identified. At the same time, I believe state
regulators, members of the public, and others have a legitimate interest in such violations, and we should seek to achieve as much transparency as we can consistent with protecting legitimate security interests.”

LaFleur says the proposal is “worthy of consideration for a way to handle these NOPs differently. I hope that we receive a wide range of comments on the White Paper, including any suggestions for alternative processes, which will allow FERC and NERC to move forward on this issue.”

The Notice was issued on August 27, 2019, comments can be submitted until September 27, 2019.