Archive:February 2017

CAISO Urges Flexibility and Coordination to Advance Distributed Energy Resource Aggregations at FERC
FERC Issues Order to Delegate Further Authority to Staff in Absence of Quorum

CAISO Urges Flexibility and Coordination to Advance Distributed Energy Resource Aggregations at FERC

By Buck B. Endemann, William M. Keyser, and Molly Suda


As previously covered by this blog, on November 17, 2016, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NOPR”) to remove barriers so that electric storage resources and distributed energy resource aggregations can better participate in the capacity, energy, and ancillary services markets operated by Regional Transmission organizations (“RTOs”) and independent system operators (“ISOs”).  This post will focus on the response to those proposals submitted by the California Independent System Operator (“CAISO”), particularly as they relate to distributed energy resource aggregations.

FERC defines distributed energy resource aggregators as entities that aggregate one or more distributed energy resources, such as electric storage resources, distributed generation, thermal storage, and electric vehicles (collectively, “DERs”), and offer those resources into wholesale markets.  The NOPR called for comments on what types of market rules should be established to provide DERs with more certainty and to remove barriers to entry.

The California Independent System Operator (“CAISO”) is one of the largest ISOs in the nation, responsible for managing about 80 percent of California’s electricity flow.  Having recently received FERC approval of its own DER aggregation participation model, CAISO has a head start on incorporating DER aggregations into its energy and ancillary services markets.[1]  In fact, in a statement issued concurrently with the NOPR, Acting FERC Chairman Cheryl LaFleur specifically identified CAISO’s DER aggregation rules as a model to study and evaluate any lessons learned from CAISO’s implementation of those rules.

CAISO submitted its comments on FERC’s proposal on February 13, 2017.  With its recent experience in developing a DER program, CAISO’s comments offer insights that may guide FERC as it works toward a final rule.[2]  Overall, CAISO’s comments strongly support incorporating DER aggregations into the nation’s energy and ancillary services markets, so long as each RTO/ISO is given the flexibility to develop participation models that reflect regional and regulatory preferences in generation, transmission, and distribution assets.  CAISO also predicts that the roles and responsibilities of transmission and distribution operators will experience significant change in the coming years, and that FERC, electric grid operators, and market participants can best encourage innovation and resiliency by avoiding any overly-prescriptive models that stifle DER participation.[3]

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FERC Issues Order to Delegate Further Authority to Staff in Absence of Quorum

By Sandra Safro, William Keyser, and Molly Suda

On February 3, 2017, FERC issued an Order Delegating Further Authority to Staff in Absence of Quorum, which provides for further delegations to enable FERC to continue to carry out various obligations under the Natural Gas Act (NGA), Federal Power Act (FPA), and Interstate Commerce Act (ICA).  In pertinent part, the delegation order states the following:

  • Delegations Generally.
    • The delegations of authority are effective during the Delegation Period, which starts on February 4, 2017, and continues until 14 days after the date on which a quorum is reestablished.
    • Delegations are made to the relevant office director, who may further delegate to his or her designee.
  • Pre-Existing Delegations. All pre-existing delegations of authority by the Commission to its staff remain effective, including the Secretary’s authority to toll the time for action on rehearing requests (also referred to as tolling orders)and the authority of the Director of Office of Energy Market Regulation (OEMR) authority to accept uncontested tariff or rate schedules that would result in rate increases.
  • Continuation of Activities Related to Safety.  Limited Commission operations can continue, including inspecting and responding to incidents at LNG facilities and jurisdictional hydropower projects, and other activities involving the safety of human life or protection of property.
  • Further Delegations Regarding Rate Proceedings. 
    • With respect to contested rate and other filings under Section 4 of the NGA, Section 205 of the FPA, and Section 6(3) of the ICA, the Director of OEMR shall have authority to:
      • Accept and suspend filings and make them effective, subject to refund and further Commission order; or
      • Accept and suspend filings and make them effective, subject to refund, and to set them for hearing or settlement judge procedures.
    • With respect to initial rates or rate decreases under Section 205 of the FPA where suspension and refund protection is not available, Commission Staff may institute a proceeding to protect customer interests pursuant to Section 206 of the FPA.
    • The Director of OEMR may accept uncontested settlements.
  • Further Delegation Regarding Uncontested Requests for Waivers.  The Director of OEMR may take appropriate action on uncontested filings seeking waivers of the terms and conditions of tariffs, rate schedules, and service agreements (including requests for waiver of capacity release and capacity market rules) made under Section 4 of the NGA, Section 205 of the FPA, and Section 6(3) of the ICA.
  • Further Delegation Regarding Extensions of Time.  Commission Staff may extend the time for action on matters where extension is permitted by statute, including extensions of a 180-day period for applications for prior approval under Section 203 of the FPA.

FERC’s order is intended to prevent filings made to the Commission from going into effect by operation of law after a certain period of time as defined by statute. However, it also creates uncertainty, because any contested rate filings approved by Staff and allowed to go into effect will be subject to refund and further review by a Commission having up to three new members once a quorum is reached.  It also may result in more filings being set for hearing and settlement judge proceedings, including potentially all initial rate filings that are contested.

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