Today, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC” or “Commission”) announced that it will convene regional conferences to determine whether transmission providers’ planning efforts can meet the “challenges posed by wider integration of regional energy resources into the nation’s power grid for the benefit of consumers.”

Several regional entities including the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator, Inc. (“MISO”) and PJM Interconnection, LLC (“PJM”) have recognized that their planning processes might not be suited to analyze large interregional backbone transmission projects that seek to bring renewable resources to the grid. Today’s announcement from FERC seems to be geared to address just this issue.

The regional conferences will look at whether the existing transmission planning processes meet transmission challenges including the development of large inter-regional transmission facilities and the integration of large amounts of wind and other location-constrained generation. FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff noted, transmission “planning is one of three legs on the transmission policy stool – the others are siting and cost allocation – and all are crucial to meeting the goals of assimilating demand resources, renewable energy and distributed generation into the grid for the benefit of consumers.”

The Commission announced the conference today in the context of approving several transmission plans submitted by multiple utilities and RTOs. As of publication, the Commission has not announced the specific dates and times for the conferences.