On March 27, 2020, FERC denied NorthWestern Corporation’s (“NorthWestern” or the Company) petition for a declaratory order regarding Qualifying Facility (“QF”) avoided cost pricing during times of excess generation. In its petition, NorthWestern asked the Commission to determine that (1) when excess generation occurs, QF pricing should be set to zero, and (2) nothing in the Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act (“PURPA”), including the rule against non-discrimination in avoided cost pricing, permits establishing a rate in excess of the utility’s avoided cost. In exercising its discretion to deny the petition, FERC did not reject NorthWestern’s request on the merits, but rather, stated that whether avoided energy costs can be zero depends on the facts of the case, and that NorthWestern had failed to provide sufficient information to support its request.

Continue Reading FERC Declines Opportunity to Weigh in on Zero Avoided Cost Pricing under PURPA

On January 31, 2020, FERC granted Xcel Energy Services Inc.’s application to terminate Southwestern Public Service Company’s (“SPS”) mandatory purchase obligation under Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (“PURPA”). In its order, FERC specifically found that (i) SPS, as a member of Southwest Power Pool, Inc. (“SPP”), is entitled to the presumption that qualifying cogeneration or small power production facilities (“QFs”) within SPS’s footprint have nondiscriminatory access to markets, and (ii) the protestors failed to adequately rebut this presumption. Accordingly, SPS is relieved of its obligation to enter into new contracts to purchase QF electric energy. FERC granted the application effective September 5, 2019.
Continue Reading FERC Grants SPS’s Application to Terminate PURPA’s Mandatory Purchase Obligation

On November 8, 2019, Representative Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Chairman of the House  Energy and Commerce Committee, and Representative Bobby L. Rush (D-IL), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy (collectively the “Chairmen”), wrote a letter to FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee expressing their concerns regarding FERC’s proposed changes to sections 201 and 210 of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (“PURPA”).
Continue Reading House Energy and Commerce Chairs Pen Letter to FERC on Proposed PURPA Reform

On September 19, 2019, FERC granted a petition for declaratory order by the New England Ratepayers Association (“New England Ratepayers”), which asked FERC to find that a New Hampshire statute, Senate Bill 365 (“SB 365”), mandating a purchase price for wholesale sales of certain biomass and waste generators in the state, is preempted by the Federal Power Act (“FPA”) and violates section 210 of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (“PURPA”).
Continue Reading FERC Finds New Hampshire Biomass and Waste Statute Preempted by the Federal Power Act

On September 19, 2019, FERC proposed substantial revisions to its Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (“PURPA”) regulations.  If adopted, the package of reforms proposed in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NOPR”) would: (1) allow states more flexibility to incorporate competitive forces when setting avoided cost rates for Qualifying Facilities (“QFs”), (2) modify the “one-mile rule,” (3) reduce the size threshold for the rebuttable presumption about QFs’ ability to access markets, (4) provide clarity on establishing a legally enforceable obligation (“LEO”), and (5) establish a simplified process to challenge a project’s QF status.  FERC requested comments on a number of proposals, which are due 60 days from publication of the NOPR in the Federal Register.
Continue Reading FERC Issues NOPR Proposing to Modify Its PURPA Regulations

Summary of NOPR

On September 19, 2019, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) proposing to revise its regulations implementing Sections 201 and 210 of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA) in light of changes in the energy industry since 1978.[1]
Continue Reading Executive Summary of FERC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978

On June 5, 2019, FERC revoked the self-certification for qualifying facility (“QF”) status of Eco Green Generation LLC’s (“Eco Green”) hybrid power generation facility (the “Facility”) located in and around Fairbanks, Alaska.  In doing so, FERC found that the Facility—which consists of a wind farm and twenty duel-fueled renewable diesel and propane engines intended to firm the energy generated by the wind farm—does not meet the criteria for a small power production QF or a cogeneration QF.
Continue Reading FERC Revokes QF Status of Hybrid Power Project

On April 18, 2019, FERC granted Sunrun, Inc.’s petition for declaratory order and request for waiver of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (“PURPA”) Qualified Facility (“QF”) certification requirements for certain of its residential solar photovoltaic (“PV”) systems.  Specifically, FERC granted Sunrun limited waivers of: (1) the QF certification requirement for Sunrun-financed residential rooftop solar PV systems under 20 kW where such systems, though separately interconnected, may aggregate to over 1 MW within a one-mile radius; and (2) the requirement in Item 8a of the QF self-certification Form No. 556 to identify related PV systems of 20 kW or less located within a one mile radius.  FERC’s order noted its intention to ease administrative burdens on both Sunrun and itself, and affirmed that certain certification filing exemptions available to QFs under 1 MW can persist as Sunrun expands and its financed PV systems aggregate to over 1 MW within a one-mile radius.
Continue Reading FERC Eases QF Certification Filing Burden for Sunrun Inc. Small Rooftop Solar PV Facilities

On March 6, 2019, the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission (“PUC”) declined to reconsider an earlier order refusing to enforce a newly-enacted mandatory biomass power purchase obligation, and associated subsidy scheme. Although the New Hampshire PUC ruled narrowly in both decisions, the law subsidizing state biomass generators at above-market rates is the latest in a series of recent state actions pushing the jurisdictional line between FERC and state authority (see, e.g., April 27, 2016 edition of the WER; September 25, 2018 edition of the WER; October 3, 2018 edition of the WER).  As of this writing, challenges to the law remain pending at FERC.
Continue Reading New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission Declines to Enforce Utility Biomass Purchase Obligation Pending Outcome of Challenges at FERC

On July 9, 2018, FERC denied Cloverland Electric Cooperative’s (“Cloverland”) application to terminate its mandatory obligation under the Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (“PURPA”) to purchase electric energy and capacity from qualifying cogeneration or small power production facilities (“QF”) with a net capacity in excess of 20 megawatts.  In denying the request, FERC emphasized that direct membership in regional transmission organizations or independent system operators is necessary to meet the exemption Cloverland requested under PURPA.
Continue Reading FERC Denies Application to Terminate PURPA Mandatory Purchase Obligation