On September 18, 2014, FERC issued an order addressing Order No. 1000 compliance filings, and requests for rehearing regarding prior compliance filings, for the parties within the ColumbiaGrid Transmission Planning region in the Pacific Northwest.  In doing so, FERC clarified the role of public power entities in the regional transmission planning process, explaining that if a public power entity chooses to enroll in a regional transmission planning process, it is bound to the resulting cost allocation determinations.  However, FERC also approved a mechanism whereby a public power entity could refrain from enrolling in the process while still being included in its respective planning process.  Under this framework, if a public power entity is subsequently allocated costs under the regional cost allocation method, it could separately determine whether it would accept those costs based on its statutory authorities.

In the initial Order No. 1000 compliance filings for the ColumbiaGrid Transmission Planning region, the transmission planning process included a non-binding cost allocation provision.  Unlike other parts of the country, approximately 75 percent of the transmission service in the Pacific Northwest region is provided by one public power entity, the Bonneville Power Administration (“Bonneville”).  As such, the ColumbiaGrid parties indicated that participation by Bonneville, as owner and operator of the majority of the transmission service in the region, was necessary in order to address transmission planning for the region under the Order No. 1000 planning process.

Meanwhile, Bonneville argued that, due to its separate statutory obligations, it could not submit to a mandatory cost allocation mechanism, and instead must be allowed to independently decide whether it will accept such costs.  As a result, the ColumbiaGrid parties explained that the non-binding cost allocation provision included in their original compliance filings was necessary in order to allow for Bonneville’s participation in the regional planning process.  Despite these concerns, FERC directed the ColumbiaGrid parties to revise their submissions, explaining that in order to comply with the cost allocation requirements of Order No. 1000, cost allocation determinations for transmission projects selected in the regional transmission plan for purposes of cost allocation must be binding.

The ColumbiaGrid parties each requested rehearing on the Commission’s initial order on compliance, and with the exception of Bonneville, made compliance filings to address FERC’s order in the interim.  In response to these filings, the Commission first found that Avista Corporation and Puget Sound Energy, Inc. alone satisfied the scope of what qualifies as a region under Order No. 1000, and that Bonneville’s participation is not necessary for the ColumbiaGrid joint planning processes to be considered regional.  FERC then accepted, as modified, the ColumbiaGrid parties’ compliance filings proposal to allow a public power entity to either (1) enroll in the transmission planning process and be bound by the relevant cost allocation provisions, or (2) refrain from enrollment but still request to be included in the transmission planning determinations, while separately deciding through its own process whether or not to accept any resulting cost allocation.

To view the Commission’s order, click here.