On December 17, 2020, FERC issued a final rule permitting Solid Oxide Fuel Cell systems with integrated natural gas reformation equipment to be certified as cogeneration qualifying facilities (“QFs”) under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (“PURPA”).  The Final Rule follows FERC’s October 15, 2020 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NOPR”) (see October 21, 2020 edition of the WER), and addresses the comments received in response to the NOPR.  While the NOPR would have limited the type of eligible fuel cells to only solid oxide fuel cells, the Final Rule modified the definition of “useful thermal energy” in section 292.202(h) of FERC’s regulations to include all fuel cells that use waste heat in an integrated fuel reforming process.
Continue Reading FERC Finalizes Rule Permitting Fuel Cell Systems to Qualify as Cogeneration QFs

On December 4, 2020, the U.S. Department of Energy (“DOE”) issued a final rule updating its National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) implementing regulations regarding applications to import to, or export from, liquid natural gas (“LNG”) terminals. The final rule follows DOE’s May 1, 2020 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NOPR”) (see May 22, 2020 edition of the WER). In the preamble to the final rule, DOE explained that the objective of the revision is to improve the efficiency of DOE’s decision-making process through saving time and expense associated with NEPA compliance and eliminating unnecessary environmental documentation.
Continue Reading DOE Updates NEPA Procedures on Authorizations Issued Under NGA

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

On October 30, FERC (under then-Chairman Neil Chatterjee) announced that it planned to convene a roundtable discussion (“Roundtable”) on the increased deployment of electric vehicles (“EVs”) and EV charging infrastructure nationwide, as well as their corresponding impact on the FERC-jurisdictional transmission system and wholesale electric markets (see November 10, 2020 issue of the WER

On October 30, 2020, FERC announced that the FERC Chairman will convene a roundtable discussion on December 3, 2020 regarding the increased deployment of electric vehicles (“EVs”) and EV charging infrastructure nationwide and their impact on the FERC-jurisdictional transmission system and wholesale electric markets. Separately, on November 4, 2020, FERC announced that FERC staff will convene a technical conference on February 25 and 26, 2021 to discuss principles and best practices for credit risk management in organized wholesale electric markets.

Continue Reading FERC to Host Technical Conferences on Electric Vehicles and Credit Risk Management in Organized Wholesale Markets

On October 20, 2020, Voltus, Inc. (“Voltus”) filed a complaint with FERC against the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc. (“MISO”) and requested fast track processing pursuant to the Commission’s regulations. The complaint asked FERC to: (1) find that MISO tariff provisions prohibiting third party demand response providers from participating in MISO’s wholesale markets are inconsistent with jurisdictional provisions of the Federal Power Act (“FPA”) and are unjust, unreasonable, unduly discriminatory, and preferential; (2) find that certain electric retail regulatory authorities (“RERRAs”) in MISO issued prohibitions against third party demand response providers in a manner inconsistent with the terms of 18 C.F.R. § 35.28(g)(iii) and that such prohibitions are therefore void; and (3) issue a notice of proposed rulemaking to repeal the provisions in 18 C.F.R. § 35.28(g)(iii) that allow RERRAs to bar third party demand response aggregators from participating in wholesale markets.

Continue Reading Demand Response Aggregator Files Complaint Urging MISO to Set Aside State Opt-out Rules

On October 15, 2020, FERC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NOPR”) to revise its regulations implementing the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (“PURPA”) to permit Solid Oxide Fuel Cell systems with integrated natural gas reformation equipment to be certified as cogeneration qualifying facilities (“QFs”). FERC proposed the changes in response to what it termed the “technical evolution of cogeneration,” and in response to Bloom Energy Corporation’s (“Bloom Energy”) petitioning FERC for such revisions.
Continue Reading FERC Proposes PURPA Amendments to Permit Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Systems to Qualify as Cogenerators

On October 6, 2020, the California Independent System Operator (“CAISO”), California Public Utilities Commission (“CPUC”), and the California Energy Commission (“CEC”) (collectively, “Joint Entities”) announced that their preliminary analysis pointed to a number of factors that caused two mid-August electricity outages in CAISO. Specifically, the group’s Preliminary Root Cause Analysis report (“Preliminary Analysis”) concluded that the outages resulted from a convergence of factors, including (i) the extreme west-wide heat storm, (ii) shortfall in system planning, and (iii) certain day-ahead energy market practices.  As directed by Governor Newsom, the Preliminary Analysis includes immediate, near, and longer-term actions that can be taken to minimize future power outages.

Continue Reading CAISO, CEC, and CPUC Conclude Several Factors Caused Mid-August Outages in California

On September 23, 2020, staff from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (“NERC”) and FERC (collectively, “Joint Staff”) issued a second joint white paper that reversed previous recommendations regarding publicly disclosing the identities of entities accused of Critical Infrastructure Protection (“CIP”) violations. As stated in the Second Joint Whitepaper, the previous recommendation to publicly disclose CIP violator names and other information raised “substantial risks to the security of the Bulk-Power System.” Accordingly, the Second Joint Whitepaper stated that from now on, NERC will request that CIP noncompliance filings be treated as Critical Energy/Electric Infrastructure Information (“CEII”). FERC Staff will also designate such filings as CEII in their entirety.  Additionally, because of the risk associated with the disclosure of CIP noncompliance information, NERC will no longer publicly post redacted versions of CIP noncompliance filings and submittals.
Continue Reading FERC and NERC Staff Reverse Course, Opt for Confidentiality on CIP Violations

On September 16, 2020, the United States Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (“Committee”) held a hearing to consider Allison Clements’ and Mark C. Christies’ pending FERC nominations as FERC Commissioners. Ms. Clements is slated to join the Commission for a term expiring June 24, 2024, and Mr. Christie is set to join for a term expiring June 30, 2025.

Continue Reading Senate Committee Holds Hearing to Consider Pending FERC Nominations