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 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 September 1, 2020, FERC issued an order overturning 40 years of Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (“PURPA”) precedent and revoking the qualifying facility (“QF”) status of Broadview Solar, LLC (“Broadview Solar”) after finding that it could not rely on inverters to meet PURPA’s statutory size limit. In a separate QF matter, the Supreme Court of the State of Montana (“Montana Supreme Court”) issued an opinion on August 24, 2020 finding the Montana Public Service Commission (“Montana Commission”) unlawfully set solar QF standard-offer rates by failing to consider carbon offsets and undervaluing solar QFs’ capacity contribution. Both cases will have substantial impacts for QF developers.   
Continue Reading FERC and Montana Supreme Court Issuances Bring Big Regulatory Shakeups to the PURPA Regulatory Landscape

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