On October 4, 2017, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (the “Commission”) issued an order allowing entities with certain passive investments to transfer those interests without receiving prior authorization from the Commission under Section 203 of the Federal Power Act (“FPA”). Specifically, the Commission found that passive tax equity interests in public utilities or public utility holding companies do not constitute voting securities for the purposes of Section 203. Thus, the transfer of these interests does not require Section 203 approval because such transfer does not constitute a transfer of control with respect to the public utility. In addition, the Commission found that the transfer of these passive investments by a holding company qualifies for blanket authorization under FPA Section 203 (a)(2).
UPDATE 10/5/17: On October 4, 2017, pursuant to authority delegated to the Director of the Office of Energy Policy and Innovation, FERC Staff issued a request that comments filed regarding DOE’s proposed rulemaking address specific questions “in order to assist Staff in understanding the implications of the proposed rule.” The request includes several categories of questions regarding the proposed rule, including the need for reform; eligibility (including with respect to the 90-day fuel supply requirement); implementation concerns; and impact on wholesale market rates. The request also asks commenters to address the timeline for compliance with a final rule; the impact of the proposed rule on consumers; and any alternative approaches that could be taken to accomplish the goals of the proposed rule.
UPDATE 10/3/17: On October 2, 2017, FERC issued a Notice Inviting Comments on DOE’s proposed rulemaking. Initial comments are due on October 23, 2017. Reply comments are due on November 7, 2017. FERC has docketed the proceeding at RM18-1-000.
On September 28, 2017, using the Secretary of Energy’s authority under Section 403 of the Department of Energy Organization Act, the Department of Energy (“DOE”) proposed a rule for final action by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”). The rule would allow certain traditional baseload generators, such as coal and nuclear plants, to “fully recover costs” to maintain the reliability and resiliency of the electric grid. DOE is requiring FERC to consider and take final action on the proposed rule within 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. In the alternative, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry urges FERC to issue the proposed rule as an interim final rule, effective immediately. The proposed rule has the potential to significantly impact the wholesale electricity markets, implicate a host of issues related to pricing, and draw strong objections from the oil and gas industry.
In one of its first orders since regaining a quorum, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) issued a Notice of Request for Supplemental Comments (“Notice”) on August 18, 2017, seeking comments related to circumstances where electric storage resources should be required to provide primary frequency response and the costs associated with primary frequency response capabilities for small generating facilities.
The Notice builds off of comments received in response to FERC’s November 17, 2016 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NOPR”). Along with a number of other proposals, the NOPR proposed to modify the pro forma Large Generator Interconnection Agreement and the pro forma Small Generator Interconnection Agreement to require all new large and small generating facilities, both synchronous and non-synchronous, to install, maintain, and operate equipment capable of providing primary frequency response as a condition of interconnection. The NOPR also proposed including minimum operating requirements for droop and deadband parameters and requirements to ensure timely and sustained responses to frequency deviations.
The NOPR did not include provisions specific to electric storage resources, and several commenters noted that by failing to address electric storage resources’ unique technical attributes, the NOPR requirements could pose an unduly discriminatory burden on such resources. In response to these concerns, FERC seeks additional information to better understand (1) the performance characteristics and limitations of electric storage resources; (2) potential ramifications to electric storage resources from the proposed primary frequency response requirements; and (3) what changes are needed to address the issues raised by stakeholders. While the Notice sets forth a number of specific questions for commenters to address, in general, the Notice seeks comments on operational limitations or challenges and potential adverse effects if electric storage resources are required to provide primary frequency response. The Notice also seeks comments on whether there are reasonable parameters or requirements that could apply to electric storage resources’ provision of primary frequency response.
In response to the NOPR, commenters also suggested a need to further investigate the costs for small generating facilities to install frequency response capability and argued that the proposed requirement would impose disproportionate costs on small generating facilities. Accordingly, to further assess small generating facilities’ ability and cost to comply with the proposed primary frequency response requirement, the Notice seeks comment on:
- The differences in costs to install, maintain and operate governor or equivalent controls for small generating facilities versus large generating facilities;
- Whether recent technological advances in primary frequency response capability minimize or eliminate barriers to entry for small generating facilities; and
- Whether an exemption is appropriate for all or a subset of small generating facilities based on disproportionate cost impacts.
Developers, owners, and operators of electric storage resources and small generating facilities should consider whether the proposed primary frequency response requirements materially affect the cost, operation, and/or feasibility of projects to be developed. The Notice offers interested stakeholders an additional opportunity to shape FERC’s interconnection policy to avoid barriers to the integration of electric storage resources and small generating facilities and ensure any unique features of these technologies are addressed in future rules. The invitation for additional comments suggests that FERC may be interested in building a record to support different treatment or rules for energy storage resources and smaller distributed energy resources compared to traditional generation. Comments are due 21 days after publication of the Notice in the Federal Register.
On August 3, 2017, the U.S. Senate confirmed President Trump’s nominations of Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson as Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Commissioners and restored FERC’s quorum for the first time in nearly 180 days. The next step is for Mr. Chatterjee and Mr. Powelson to be sworn into their positions.
FERC has not had a quorum since February 3, 2017. In the interim, the Commission has accumulated a backlog of filings that will require formal Commission action, including
- Applications under Section 4 of the Natural Gas Act (NGA) related to the rates and terms and conditions of service;
- Applications related to interstate natural gas pipeline infrastructure under Section 7 of the NGA;
- Applications related to the rates and terms and conditions of service for interstate oil and products pipelines under the Interstate Commerce Act;
- Applications related to rates, rules, or charges for the transmission or wholesale sale of electric energy under the Federal Power Act;
- Complaints challenging rates, rules, or charges for the transmission or wholesale sale of electric energy under the Federal Power Act; and
- Petitions for declaratory orders seeking clarification from the Commission.
With FERC’s quorum restored, it also can move forward with rulemaking proceedings, including notices of proposed rulemaking that were issued before February 2017, as well as formal investigations and enforcement actions that require Commission authorization. It is unclear at this point how FERC will process and prioritize this backlog and how long it will take before the Commission is able to process filings on more traditional timeframes.
FERC does not hold a formal Commission meeting in August, but the Commissioners can vote notationally and therefore could begin issuing orders in the near term.
Below is a brief biography of FERC’s newest members.
Mr. Chatterjee most recently served as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)’s senior energy policy analyst. While in this position, Mr. Chatterjee advised Senator McConnell on energy and infrastructure initiatives, including President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. Mr. Chatterjee worked previously as a Principal in Government Relations for the National Rural Cooperative Association and as an aide to House Republican Conference chairman Deborah Pryce (R-OH). Mr. Chatterjee grew up in Lexington, Kentucky near the heart of the coal industry. He earned his bachelor’s degree from St. Lawrence University in New York and a law degree from the University of Cincinnati. Mr. Chatterjee’s term expires on June 30, 2021.
Mr. Powelson has extensive regulatory experience, having served as a Commissioner at the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) and as President of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners. Mr. Powelson has served on numerous academic boards, including Drexel University’s Board of Trustees and Lincoln University’s Board of Directors. Prior to his position on the Pennsylvania PUC, Mr. Powelson worked as Chief Executive Officer and President of the Chester County, Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry. He earned his bachelor’s degree from St. Joseph’s University and a master’s in government administration from the University of Pennsylvania. Mr. Powelson’s term expires on June 30, 2020.
In addition, the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has scheduled a hearing for President Trump’s two other nominees, Richard Glick and Kevin McIntyre, for September 7, 2017, at 10 a.m. If approved by the Committee, Mr. Glick and Mr. McIntyre will then be ready to be scheduled for full Senate confirmation. Below is a brief biography for both nominees.
Before President Trump nominated him for FERC, Mr. Glick served as General Counsel for the Democrats on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Previously, Mr. Glick served as an energy and wind power lobbyist and advised U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Bill Richardson during the Clinton Administration. Mr. Glick earned his bachelor’s degree from The George Washington University and his law degree from the Georgetown University Law Center. If confirmed, Mr. Glick’s term would expire on June 30, 2022.
Mr. McIntyre is well-known among industry professionals, having served as co-head of Jones Day’s energy practice. While in private practice, Mr. McIntyre focused on government regulation of energy markets, electric and natural gas utilities, oil and natural gas pipelines, and co-authored several treatises on energy practice. Mr. McIntyre is actively involved in the Energy Bar Association, having served as on its Charitable Foundation’s Board of Directors. He also has served on the advisory board of Georgetown University Law Center’s Corporate Counsel Institute. Mr. McIntyre earned his bachelor’s degree from San Diego State University and his law degree from the Georgetown University Law Center. If confirmed, Mr. McIntyre’s term would expire on June 30, 2018. The White House press release announcing Mr. McIntyre’s nomination also states the White House’s intention to seek an additional term for Mr. McIntyre, to expire on June 30, 2023.
The Energy Storage Association (ESA) filed a complaint with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or Commission) alleging that PJM Interconnection, L.L.C. (PJM) has adjusted its system operations to unduly discriminate against certain market participants. ESA argues that PJM changed the rules of its frequency regulation market, without prior FERC approval, and that those rule changes unduly discriminate against limited energy resource participants, such as energy storage providers.
FERC has set May 15, 2017, as the deadline for parties to comment, intervene, or protest ESA’s complaint. Commenting and/or intervention are important procedural tools that allow interested parties to protect and advocate for their interests. Given the potentially broad impact of this complaint on PJM’s energy and frequency regulation market design, numerous entities may seek to participate in this proceeding. K&L Gates will continue to follow this proceeding closely.
To read the full alert on K&L Gates HUB, click here.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) has scheduled a technical conference on May 1 and 2 to discuss and obtain input on the interaction between competitive wholesale markets and state energy policies. In recent years, several states that are part of organized wholesale energy markets have adopted legislation or policies to support or promote certain generation resources or resource types. As a result of these state policy initiatives, FERC has been forced to grapple with questions about state versus federal jurisdiction and the effect of the state policies on competition and prices in the organized wholesale energy markets. The technical conference offers an open forum to discuss potential solutions and find ways to reconcile states’ interests with interests in preserving the benefits of regional competitive wholesale markets. Read More
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. 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. 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.
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.
- 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:
- 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.
Last week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC” or the “Commission”) issued a Policy Statement to provide guidance for electric storage resource owners and operators that may seek to receive cost-based rate recovery for certain services, as well as market-based revenues for other services. The Policy Statement explains that an electric storage resource may provide transmission or grid support services at a cost-based rate, while also participating in the wholesale energy markets administered by a regional transmission organization (“RTO”) or independent system operator (“ISO”) and earning market-based revenues. As described below, the Policy Statement eliminates some uncertainty created by prior FERC precedent, which limited electric storage resources’ ability simultaneously to provide transmission or grid support services at cost-based rates and also participate in the wholesale markets.
However, the path forward for electric storage resources to “stack” payment streams and recover costs through both cost-based and market-based rates will not be without obstacles. The Policy Statement acknowledges that “implementation details” will need to be addressed. Additionally, FERC Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur dissented, disagreeing with the Policy Statement’s broad statements that electric storage resources’ ability to recovery costs through both cost-based and market-based rates will not adversely impact other market competitors. Commissioner LaFleur also disagreed with the decision to address the issue of electric storage resources’ ability to recover costs through both cost-based and market-based rates in a proceeding separate from the pending Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on electric storage’s participation in RTO/ISO markets (“Electric Storage NOPR”). Thus, while the Policy Statement removes some uncertainty, electric storage resources will likely still have to grapple with cost recovery, competition, and other issues on a case-by-case basis.
This alert provides background on the Commission’s prior precedent related to electric storage resources and cost-based recovery, as well as the Commission’s recent efforts in several open proceedings to address potential barriers to the further development of electric storage resources. Provided below is a summary of the Commission’s Policy Statement, as well as an overview of open questions and unresolved issues that are intertwined with issues presented in the Commission’s Electric Storage NOPR and other recent orders.
By William M. Keyser, Sandra E. Safro, Michael L. O’Neill, and Benjamin L. Tejblum
On December 15, 2016, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) seeking comment on how to address any double recovery resulting from income tax allowance policy set forth in its Income Tax Allowance Policy Statement and current policies regarding the derivation of return on equity (ROE). FERC’s existing Income Tax Allowance Policy Statement has been in place since 2005 and permits an income tax allowance for partnerships, or similar pass-through entities, to the extent that partners or members have actual or potential income tax obligations on the partnership entity’s income.
The NOI stems from the July 1, 2016 decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (DC Circuit) in United Airlines Inc. v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 827 F.3d 122 (D.C. Cir. 2016) (UAL v. FERC). In that decision, the DC Circuit held that FERC had not adequately demonstrated that the application of its Income Tax Allowance Policy Statement in combination with its use of a discounted cash flow (DCF) methodology to determine ROE does not result in double recovery of taxes for a pipeline organized as a partnership. The DC Circuit remanded the issue to FERC to develop a mechanism “for which the Commission can demonstrate that there is no double recovery” of partnership income tax costs. Among the potential options that the DC Circuit outlined was eliminating all income tax allowances and setting rates based on pre-tax returns. The NOI explicitly notes “the potentially significant and widespread effect of [the decision in UAL v. FERC] upon the oil pipelines, natural gas pipelines, and electric utilities subject to the Commission’s regulation.” NOI at P 2.