On April 15, 2021, FERC issued a declaratory order confirming that under FERC Order No. 1000, incumbent New York Transmission Owners (“NYTOs”) have a federal right of first refusal (“ROFR”) for upgrades to their existing transmission facilities, including upgrades that are part of another Developer’s transmission project selected in the regional transmission plan for cost allocation. Specifically, FERC declared that the foundational agreements and Section 31.6.4 of the New York Independent System Operator, Inc. (“NYISO”) Open Access Transmission Tariff (“OATT”) established a ROFR of NYTOs to build, own and recover the cost of transmission upgrades to their existing facilities. In the same order, FERC denied requested clarification from the NYISO that such ROFR-exercising NYTOs could be considered “Developers” under the transmission planning process. FERC also provided additional clarity on the distinction between ROFR-eligible “upgrades” and new transmission facilities, indicating that different physical configurations resulting in power flow changes, increasing voltage/transfer capability, and performing different transmission functions, likely fall outside of traditional “upgrades.”

Continue Reading FERC Confirms NYTOs Federal Right of First Refusal to Build and Recover Cost of Upgrades to Existing Transmission Facilities

On March 19, 2021, FERC set aside a September 1, 2020 order (“September Order”) that had upended 40 years’ worth of FERC precedent regarding how to determine the 80MW threshold for small power production qualifying facilities (“QFs”) under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (“PURPA”). Specifically, FERC rejected the September Order’s denial of QF status to a hybrid photovoltaic solar and storage facility owned by Broadview Solar LLC (“Broadview”) as a result of the facility’s 160 MW gross capacity, as opposed to the facility’s 80 MW maximum net output or “send out.” After further consideration, FERC explained that it had erred by departing from and overturning its longstanding “send out” precedent. Commissioner Danly dissented, arguing that the September Order correctly applied PURPA in relying on gross power production capacity.
Continue Reading FERC Reverses September 2020 Order, Reinstating Long-Standing “Send Out” Test for Small Power Production QF 80MW Threshold

On March 2, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia Circuit (“D.C. Circuit”) denied petitions for review of three FERC orders addressing cost allocation by PJM Interconnection, L.L.C. (“PJM”) for a high-voltage transmission line connecting three nuclear power plants on Artificial Island in New Jersey to the Delmarva transmission zone (“Artificial Island Project”). In a 2016 order, FERC upheld PJM’s use of a hybrid cost allocation method including the “Solution Based DFAX” method to assign 90 percent of the costs of the Artificial Island Project to PJM’s Delmarva transmission zone; FERC reversed its position in a 2018 rehearing order. In dismissing the petitions for review filed by certain PJM transmission owners including Public Service Electric and Gas Company (“PSE&G”), the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, and the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel, the D.C. Circuit’s March 2 opinion held that FERC reasonably concluded that assigning nearly 90 percent of the Artificial Island Project costs to the Delmarva transmission zone would not be commensurate with the benefits that zone received, and that FERC’s change in position was adequately explained and supported by substantial evidence.
Continue Reading D.C. Circuit Upholds FERC Cost Allocation Orders for PJM Artificial Island Transmission Project

On March 2, 2021, members of the United States House of Representatives introduced H.R.1512, the Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation’s Future Act (“CLEAN Future Act”). The CLEAN Future Act, aims to achieve net zero greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions by 2050 in concert with the target identified by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to limit temperature increases to 1.5°C in order to avoid the most catastrophic consequences of climate change. H.R.1512 is a revision of draft legislation released in January 2020.
Continue Reading House Introduces CLEAN Future Act – A Comprehensive Bill to Achieve A Net Zero Greenhouse Gas Economy by 2050

On February 18, 2021, FERC denied a rehearing request for an order it issued in October of 2020 that stated that payments received under the Commercial System Distribution Load Relief Programs (“CSRPs”) may not be excluded from the offer floors for Special Case Resources’ (“SCR”) calculation under the New York Independent System Operator, Inc.’s (“NYISO”) buyer-side market power mitigation (“BSM”) rules. Although FERC denied the request for rehearing, FERC modified and set aside the October 2020 Order in part, finding that the identified CSRPs should be excluded from the calculation of SCR offer floors in NYISO. Commissioners Clements and Christie issued concurring opinions.

Continue Reading FERC Exempts Certain Demand Response Programs from NYISO’s Buyer-Side Market Power Mitigation Rules

On January 22, 2021, two Washington state irrigation districts, Quincy-Columbia Basin Irrigation District and East Columbia Basin Irrigation District (the “Districts”), filed a Petition for Declaratory Order (“Petition”) requesting that FERC find that Federal Power Act (“FPA”) section 211A does not grant FERC jurisdiction over an unregulated transmitting utility solely as a result of the utility establishing different transmission rates by customer class or by contract.
Continue Reading Two Northwest Irrigation Districts Request Declaratory Order on FERC’s Jurisdiction Under FPA Section 211A

On January 19, 2021, FERC directed Regional Transmission Organizations (“RTOs”) and Independent System Operators (“ISOs”) to submit informational reports regarding four hybrid resources issues: (1) terminology; (2) interconnection; (3) market participation; and (4) capacity valuation. Specifically, FERC directed that each RTO or ISO file a report within 180 days from the order providing:  (1) a description of its current practices related to these four issues; (2) an update on the status of any ongoing efforts to develop reforms related to the four issues; and (3) responses to the specific requests for information contained in the January 19, 2021 order. FERC’s request for reports follows a technical conference focusing on technical and market issues raised by hybrid resources (see April 14, 2020 edition of the WER) and a Notice Inviting Post-Technical Conference Comments.
Continue Reading FERC Directs Informational Reports on Hybrid Resources from RTOs and ISOs Following Technical Conference

On December 17, 2020, FERC issued an order concluding its review of the index level used to determine annual changes to oil pipeline rate ceilings, establishing an index level of Producer Price Index for Finished Goods plus 0.78% (PPI-FG+0.78%), and also issued a Withdrawal of Proposed Policy Statement on Oil Pipeline Affiliate Contracts, the latter of which drew a dissenting opinion from Commissioner Richard Glick.
Continue Reading FERC Establishes New Oil Index Level and Withdraws Proposed Affiliate Contract Guidance for Oil Pipelines

On December 7, 2020, FERC issued an order on rehearing sustaining its previous order in which it: found that PJM Interconnection, L.L.C.’s (“PJM”) uplift allocation rules were unjust, unreasonable, and unduly preferential as they did not allocate uplift to Up-to-Congestion (“UTC”) transactions; and directed PJM to update its rate. FERC disagreed with comments provided by XO Energy MA, LP (“XO Energy”) that FERC’s previous order was inconsistent with cost causation principles, since the record in the proceedings did not support a finding that UTCs are the cause of capacity-related costs that would be passed through as uplift.
Continue Reading FERC Affirms Previous Order Requiring PJM to Bill UTC Transactions for Uplift

On November 19, 2020, FERC issued Order No. 872-A, an order denying rehearing and clarifying portions of Order No. 872, which revised the regulations implementing the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (“PURPA”). In Order No. 872-A, FERC affirmed its previous PURPA regulation amendments in Order No. 872, but provided further explanation regarding six key reforms: (1) states’ use of tiered avoided cost pricing; (2) states’ use of variable energy rates in qualifying facility (“QF”) contracts and availability of utility avoided cost data; (3) the role of independent entities overseeing competitive solicitations that set avoided cost rates; (4) the circumstances under which a small power production QF needs to recertify; (5) the application of the rebuttable presumption of separate sites for the purpose of determining the power production capacity of small power production facilities; and (6) the PURPA section 210(m) rebuttable presumption of nondiscriminatory access to markets and accompanying regulatory text.
Continue Reading FERC Denies Rehearing, But Clarifies Various Aspects of the New PURPA Rules