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

On September 9, 2020, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (“First Circuit”) affirmed the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts (“District Court”)  dismissal of a lawsuit alleging Eversource Energy and Avangrid (“Defendants”) manipulated Algonquin Gas Transmission, LLC (“Algonquin”) pipeline capacity and violated federal and state antitrust laws. The First Circuit followed its previous decision addressing a lawsuit challenging the same conduct by Defendants, but brought by different plaintiffs (see September 25, 2019 edition of the WER), which held that because the Defendants’ actions were permitted under a tariff filed with and accepted by FERC, the filed rate doctrine barred any attempt to challenge or change those rates or terms in federal court. Notably, the First Circuit also admonished FERC for being “slow to recognize market defects that create opportunities to exploit market power.”

Continue Reading First Circuit Affirms that Complaints About Gas Pipeline Capacity Hoarding in New England Are Barred by Filed Rate Doctrine, Criticizes FERC for not Policing Markets

On August 28, 2020, FERC issued a supplemental Notice of a Commission-led Technical Conference on state pricing for carbon dioxide emissions, commonly referred to as carbon pricing, in FERC-jurisdictional wholesale electric markets (“Conference”). The Conference is free and will take place online on Wednesday, September 30, 2020 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. EST.

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On July 22, 2020, FERC approved a mitigation proposal that Sun Jupiter Holdings, LLC (“Sun Jupiter”) and El Paso Electric Company (“El Paso”) (together, “Applicants”) submitted in response to FERC’s March 30, 2020 order (“March 2020 Order”) conditioning approval of Sun Jupiter’s merger with and into El Paso and requiring the Applicants to address the transaction’s adverse impact on competition in certain circumstances. FERC also dismissed, on procedural grounds, United States Senators Jeffrey A. Merkley (D-OR), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), and Bernard Sanders (D-VT) (collectively, “Senators”) request for rehearing, and denied Public Citizen, Inc.’s  (“Public Citizen”) request for rehearing of FERC’s March 2020 Order.

Continue Reading FERC Approves Sun Jupiter’s and El Paso’s Mitigation Proposal, Dismisses U.S. Senators’ and Public Citizen’s Requests for Rehearing

On July 16, 2020, FERC dismissed a petition for declaratory order by the New England Ratepayers Association (“NERA”) that asked FERC to assert jurisdiction over net metering, finding that the petition failed to identify a specific controversy or harm that warranted a generic response from FERC. NERA’s petition had requested that FERC declare: (1) that all flows of electricity from behind-the-meter generators under state net metering programs back to the interconnected utility are wholesale sales subject to FERC’s exclusive jurisdiction, and (2) such sales should be priced in accordance with the requirements of the Federal Power Act (“FPA”) or the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (“PURPA”). Commissioners Bernard L. McNamee and James Danly issued separate concurring opinions, noting that though NERA’s petition was procedurally unsound, the issues raised could be addressed on the merits in a different proceeding.

Continue Reading FERC Declines Request to Assert Jurisdiction over Net Metering

On June 18, 2020, FERC denied rehearing, but granted partial clarification, of a 2019 order addressing certain market power mitigation reforms proposed by the California Independent System Operator Corporation (“CAISO”). In particular, FERC again rejected CAISO’s “Net Export Limit” proposal to enhance local market power mitigation in the western energy imbalance market (“EIM”). As FERC reiterated in its order, the Net Export Limit proposal could allow EIM resource owners to limit dispatch during periods of market power mitigation, resulting in unjust and unreasonable market outcomes.
Continue Reading FERC Denies CAISO’s Rehearing Request, and Grants Limited Clarification, Regarding CAISO’s EIM Net Export Limit Proposal

On June 18, 2020, FERC issued an order directing New Fortress Energy LLC (“New Fortress Energy”) to show cause, within 30 days, why the liquified natural gas (“LNG”) handling facilities it constructed adjacent to the San Juan Combined Cycle Power Plant in San Juan, Puerto Rico, are not subject to FERC’s jurisdiction under section 3 of the Natural Gas Act (“NGA”).

Continue Reading New Fortress Energy Directed to Show Cause Why Its LNG Facility is Not Subject to FERC Jurisdiction