On April 23, 2020 the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) issued a Report and Order adopting rules to make 1,200 megahertz of spectrum in the 6 GHz band—a band of airwaves used for communications in the operation of electric, oil, natural gas, and water companies—also available for unlicensed use by Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-connected consumer products. The FCC stated that expanding unlicensed broadband operations would provide opportunity for innovation and improve broadband speed and connectivity. The FCC also adopted an Automated Frequency Coordination (“AFC”) system to prevent unlicensed use from interfering with incumbent users including utilities. The Report and Order follows a December 2019 letter from FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee and Commissioners Richard Glick and Bernard McNamee to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, urging the FCC to consider additional testing of the AFC system to guarantee that unlicensed devices do not interfere with incumbent users.
Continue Reading FCC Approves Unlicensed Use of Airwaves Used in Utility Operations

On April 16, 2020, FERC denied rehearing of an April 2019 order approving changes to PJM Interconnection, L.L.C.’s (“PJM”) Variable Resource Requirement (“VRR”) demand curve in connection with PJM’s 2019 Base Residual Auction for the 2022/2023 Delivery Year (see April 24, 2019 edition of the WER for more background on the April 2019 order and the PJM’s VRR curve). Among other issues, FERC’s April 2020 order on rehearing rejected arguments that PJM erred in designating a combustion turbine (“CT”) power plant with a new H-class turbine configuration as the Reference Resource—a theoretical new generator that PJM uses as a benchmark to determine the cost of entering the market. In a lengthy dissent, Commissioner Richard Glick argued FERC’s decision is unsupported by substantial evidence and inconsistent with FERC precedent. According to Commissioner Glick, FERC’s approval of a CT Reference Resource and resulting Net Cost of New Entry (“CONE”) estimate will lead to host of issues, including distorting PJM’s entire capacity market design and harming consumers by increasing rates.
Continue Reading FERC Affirms Use of Combustion Turbine as Reference Resource for PJM VRR Demand Curve

On April 10, 2020, FERC consolidated two separate dockets resulting from PJM Interconnection, L.L.C.’s (“PJM”) Order No. 841 compliance proceeding, and established paper hearing procedures to examine PJM’s methodology for calculating capacity values—not just for Electric Storage Resources (“ESRs”) participating in its capacity markets, but for all resource types, including run-of-river hydroelectric resources with and without reservoir storage capability. However, FERC held the proceedings in abeyance through October 30, 2020 to permit PJM and its stakeholders time to consider replacing the current capacity value calculation methodology with a new, Effective Load Carrying Capability (“ELCC”) approach. FERC concluded that the October 30 deadline would provide sufficient time to consider the new approach, while also allowing for new rules to become effective in advance of PJM’s next capacity auction. Commissioner Richard Glick issued partial dissent, explaining that he would have held the proceedings in abeyance until January 29, 2021.
Continue Reading FERC Establishes Hearing to Determine PJM Capacity Values; Holds Hearing in Abeyance Until October 2020

On March 20, 2020, FERC issued an order accepting PJM Interconnection, L.L.C.’s (“PJM”) proposal as part of its Regional Transmission Expansion Plan (“RTEP”) to allow project developers to submit binding cost commitments on a voluntary basis, and to undertake a comparative review and analysis of these commitments in selecting transmission projects. FERC accepted PJM’s proposal over the objections of certain PJM transmission owners, and concluded that the proposal would assist PJM in selecting the most efficient and cost-effective transmission solutions in its RTEP while providing greater transparency into PJM’s evaluation process.
Continue Reading FERC Accepts PJM Plan to Review and Analyze Binding Cost Commitments in its RTEP

On March 20, 2020, FERC denied rehearing of a February 2018 order accepting the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc.’s (“MISO”) resource adequacy Tariff provisions (see March 5, 2018 edition of the WER). FERC noted that many of the arguments raised on rehearing sought to impose on MISO the rules and requirements used in the centralized capacity markets in the eastern Regional Transmission Organizations/Independent System Operators (“RTOs/ISOs”). FERC rejected those arguments, concluding that unlike the centralized capacity constructs used in the eastern RTOs/ISOs, MISO’s capacity auction is not, and never has been, the primary mechanism for Load-Serving Entities (“LSEs”) to procure capacity.
Continue Reading FERC Denies Rehearing, Affirming MISO Resource Adequacy Program

I. Summary of NOPR

On March 19, 2020, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) proposing to revise its electric transmission incentive policy under Federal Power Act (FPA) Section 219[1] “to stimulate the development of transmission infrastructure needed to support the nation’s evolving generation resource mix, technological innovation and shifts in load patterns.”[2] FERC’s NOPR includes a number of changes to its transmission incentives policy and seeks comment from industry participants.

FERC’s NOPR proposes to shift the focus in granting transmission incentives from an approach based on the risks and challenges faced by a project to an approach based on economic and reliability benefits to consumers.

The NOPR intends to replace the current policy of limiting incentives to the base rate of return on equity (ROE) zone of reasonableness with a 250-basis-point cap on total ROE incentives. The NOPR proposes that transmission providers should be allowed to seek removal of the ROE zone-of-reasonableness restrictions placed on previously-granted incentives and to replace them with the hard cap.

FERC proposes to increase the ROE incentive for joining and remaining a member of a Regional Transmission Organization (RTO), an Independent System Operator (ISO) or other Commission-approved transmission organization (collectively hereinafter, “RTO”) from 50 basis points to 100 basis points, and to make the incentive available regardless of whether such participation is voluntary.

The NOPR also offers a 50-basis-point ROE incentive for transmission projects that meet a pre-construction benefit-to-cost ratio in the top 25 percent of projects examined over a sample period, and an additional 50 basis points for projects that meet a post-construction benefit-to-cost ratio in the top 10 percent of projects studied over the same sample period.

FERC further proposes a 100-basis-point ROE incentive for transmission technologies that enhance reliability, efficiency and capacity, as well as improve the operation of new or existing transmission facilities. The NOPR also proposes an incentive of up to 50 basis points for projects that demonstrate reliability benefits by providing a quantitative analysis, where possible, or a qualitative analysis.

Finally, FERC plans to retain several existing non-ROE incentives, including those related to Construction Work In Progress (CWIP), hypothetical capital structure, accelerated depreciation for rate recovery, and regulatory asset treatment, that remain vital in removing regulatory barriers and other impediments to transmission investment.

Commissioner Richard Glick dissented in part from the NOPR.

The NOPR seeks comment on these proposed reforms 90 days from the date of its publication in the Federal Register.


Continue Reading Executive Summary of FERC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Regarding its Electric Transmission Incentive Policy Under Federal Power Act Section 219

On Thursday, March 19, in lieu of its monthly Commission meeting, FERC issued a Notice regarding its response to the Novel Coronavirus Disease (“COVID-19”) and the President’s March 13 declaration of a National Emergency.  Chairman Neil Chatterjee delivered comments about the Notice and the Commission’s operations in the coming weeks and months.
Continue Reading FERC Issues Notice on Commission Operations During COVID-19 Emergency

On March 10, 2020, FERC accepted and suspended Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc.’s (“MISO”) proposal to allow for the selection of a storage facility as a transmission-only asset (“SATOA”) in the MISO Transmission Expansion Plan (“MTEP”). FERC found that MISO failed to demonstrate that the proposal was just and reasonable and not unduly discriminatory, and directed staff to convene a technical conference to explore issues including:

  1. Evaluation and selection criteria for a SATOA in the MTEP;
  2. Permitted market activities for SATOAs and potential wholesale market impacts;
  3. How MISO’s current formula rate structure accommodates cost recovery for SATOAs;
  4. A SATOA’s potential impact on MISO’s generator interconnection queue; and
  5. Operating guidelines that will apply to a SATOA.


Continue Reading FERC Orders Technical Conference on MISO’s Proposal to Include Storage in its Transmission Planning Process

On February 27, 2020, FERC granted Southwest Power Pool, Inc.’s (“SPP”) request to further delay implementation of reforms designed to facilitate energy storage resource (“ESR”) participation in SPP’s markets. SPP requested the deferral in December 2019, explaining that it would not be able to implement its ESR participation model as scheduled due to ongoing delays in the development of a new market and transmission settlement system and software changes associated with FERC’s Order No. 841 reforms. FERC accepted SPP’s deferral request and ordered a new, August 5, 2021 effective date for SPP’s underlying Order No. 841 tariff changes. Commissioner Bernard McNamee issued a separate opinion concurring with FERC’s order.
Continue Reading FERC Permits SPP to Delay Implementing Storage Resource Participation Rules Until August 2021

On February 20, 2020, FERC issued Order No. 861-A, granting certain clarifications about, and denying rehearing of, FERC’s sweeping market-based rate reforms in Order No. 861 (see July 24, 2019 edition of the WER). In Order No. 861-A, FERC held that sellers of capacity located in the California Independent System Operator Corporation (“CAISO”) market must continue to submit indicative screens in order to obtain authorization to make capacity sales at market-based rates. FERC also affirmed that capacity sellers located in CAISO may not rely on a rebuttable presumption that the Capacity Procurement Mechanism (“CPM”) adequately mitigates these sellers’ horizontal market power. FERC issued Order No. 861-A in response to requests for rehearing and clarification from CAISO and Pacific Gas & Electric Company (“PG&E”).
Continue Reading FERC Affirms Market-Based Rate Rule, Requires Capacity Sellers in CAISO to Submit Indicative Screens to Obtain Market-Based Rate Authority