On September 17, 2015, the Commission issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NOPR”) in which it proposed to amend its regulations to require the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (“NERC”) to provide the Commission and Commission staff with on-going, non-public access to three NERC databases: (i) the Transmission Availability Data System (“TADS”) database; (ii) the Generating Availability Data System (“GADS”) database; and (iii) the protection system misoperations database.  According to the Commission, the proposal is intended to provide the Commission with “information necessary to determine the need for new or modified Reliability Standards and to better understand NERC’s periodic reliability and adequacy assessments.”

The TADS, GADS, and protection system misoperations databases are maintained by NERC and populated using information obtained from entities listed on the NERC Compliance Registry.  The TADS database contains transmission outage information, which NERC uses to develop metrics to analyze outage frequency, duration, causes, and other factors.  Similarly, the GADS database contains operating information on power plant availability, including outage event, generator performance, and generator design data.  NERC uses GADS data to support equipment reliability and availability analyses, as well as benchmarking studies.  Lastly, the protection system misoperations database is used by NERC to assess protection system performance and trends in protection system performance that may negatively impact reliability.

In the September 17, 2015 NOPR, the Commission stated its belief that access to the TADS, GADS, and protection system misoperations databases is necessary to carry out its authority under Section 215 of the Federal Power Act (“FPA”) by allowing it to: (i) evaluate the need to direct new or modified Reliability Standards; and (ii) better understand NERC’s periodic assessments and reports regarding the reliability and adequacy of the Bulk-Power System.  The Commission observed that Section 215 of the FPA tasks both the Commission and NERC with the responsibility to monitor reliability trends or reliability gaps that might warrant the development or modification of a Reliability Standard, and that access to the databases by both the Commission and NERC would assist in furthering this effort.  Additionally, the Commission stated that NERC’s reliability assessments and reports, conducted pursuant to Section 215, draw heavily from these databases, and that Commission access to the databases would assist the Commission in understanding the assessments and reports, and in determining whether additional assessments or reports are needed.

Lastly, the Commission acknowledged that its proposal “might raise confidentiality issues regarding certain of the data contained in these databases,” but stated that if an entity’s confidential information was collected, the Commission would take appropriate steps, as provided for in its governing statutes and regulations, in handling such information.

Comments on the NOPR are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

A copy of the NOPR may be found here.