FERC grid resilience examination continues

Nearly two years after opening a proceeding to evaluate the resilience of the nation's bulk power system in organized wholesale markets, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's evaluation of resiliency matters remains pending.

In 2017, U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry directed the Commission to consider a proposed rulemaking to ensure that "traditional baseload resources, such as coal and nuclear" are rewarded for their reliability and resilience attributes. As proposed, the rule would have required grid operators to set rates for compensation paid to certain "grid reliability and resiliency resources" with a 90-day fuel supply on site and capable of providing "essential energy and ancillary reliability services, including but not limited to voltage support, frequency services, operating reserves, and reactive power."

But on January 8, 2018, the Commission terminated its consideration of the Department of Energy's proposed rulemaking, finding that "the Proposed Rule did not satisfy those clear and fundamental legal requirements under section 206" of the Federal Power Act. Instead, the Commission opened a new proceeding to take additional steps to explore resilience issues in organized wholesale electricity markets. The Commission described the goal of this proceeding as: "(1) to develop a common understanding among the Commission, industry, and others of what resilience of the bulk power system means and requires; (2) to understand how each RTO and ISO assesses resilience in its geographic footprint; and (3) to use this information to evaluate whether additional Commission action regarding resilience is appropriate at this time."

In its order, the Commission directed six regional transmission organizations and independent system operators to respond within 60 days with comments on the definition of resilience, plus how they assess and mitigate threats to resilience, and requested public comment within 30 days of the grid operators' due date. In March 2018, the Commission extended the deadline to allow stakeholders to develop and file comments creating "a robust record and as much relevant information and thoughtful input as possible". The Commission has since received over 200 motions to intervene, comments, and other filing in the docket.

Meanwhile, the Foundation for Resilient Societies filed a timely request for rehearing of the Commission's order terminating the rulemaking proceeding regarding the Department of Energy's proposed rule, in response to which the Commission granted rehearing for further consideration.

In its January 2018 order opening the proceeding, the Commission said it would review the additional information requested from each RTO and ISO, and that it expected to "promptly decide whether additional Commission action is warranted to address grid resilience." In a separate concurring statement, Commissioner Glick expressed full support for the initiation of the new resilience examination proceeding, concluding, "If the RTOs and ISOs demonstrate that the resilience of the bulk power system is threatened we should act. If not, we should move on."

As of October 29, 2019, the resiliency proceeding remains pending before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, as does the rehearing request.