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.