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 29, 2020, in response to a request for rehearing, FERC issued an order modifying the discussion in, while sustaining the result of, a prior order finding that PJM Interconnection, L.L.C. (“PJM”) was not in compliance with three of the five criteria of Order No. 1000’s immediate need reliability project exemption (“Immediate Need Exemption”). Concurrently, in a separate order, FERC modified, while sustaining the result of, an order where it found that ISO New England Inc.’s (“ISO-NE”) implementation of the Immediate Need Exemption was not unjust, unreasonable, or unduly discriminatory or preferential.
Continue Reading FERC Sustains PJM and ISO-NE Immediate Need Reliability Project Exemption Orders

On September 17, 2020, FERC addressed the American Wind Energy Association’s (“AWEA”) request for rehearing of a December 2019 order finding that Generator Interconnection Agreements (“GIAs”), Facilities Construction Agreements (“FCAs”) and Multi-Party Facilities Construction Agreements (“MPFCAs”) entered into between June 24, 2015 and August 31, 2018 (“the interim period”) should be revised to allow Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc. (“MISO”) transmission owners and affected system operators to unilaterally elect to provide the initial funding for interconnection-related network upgrades. FERC’s September 17 order modified the discussion in the December 2019 order but continued to reach the same result. The order also accepted MISO’s proposed tariff sheets allowing transmission owners and affected system operators to elect transmission owner initial funding for network upgrades for GIAs, FCAs, and MPFCAs that became effective during the interim period. Commissioner Richard Glick issued a dissenting opinion in which he concluded that FERC’s order failed to meaningfully address concerns of undue discrimination and ignored evidence that allowing transmission owners and affected system operators to retroactively elect to self-fund network upgrades would result in substantial harm to interconnection customers and could lead to project terminations.
Continue Reading FERC Upholds Orders on Transmission Owner Funding for Network Upgrades in MISO

On August 27, 2020, FERC directed further briefing and established a technical conference in the proceedings arising from two complaints in which American Electric Power Service Corporation (“AEP”) and the City of Prescott, Arkansas each alleged that they were subject to overlapping or duplicative congestion charges on load that is pseudo-tied out of the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc. (“MISO”) into Southwest Power Pool, Inc. (“SPP”). FERC’s August 27 order responded to additional briefing by the parties ordered in September 2019, and held that even after the additional briefing, the record was inadequate to determine whether: (1) mechanisms including virtual transactions, Financial Transmission Rights, and firm flow entitlements are sufficient to remedy any potential for overlapping congestion charges; or (2) the Regional Transmission Organizations (“RTOs”) must make changes to their Joint Operating Agreement (“JOA”) and/or their individual tariffs to remedy the causes of overlapping or duplicative congestion charges. The August 27 order therefore required additional briefing, and directed Commission staff to hold a technical conference after further briefs are filed.
Continue Reading FERC Directs Further Briefing and Establishes Technical Conference on Overlapping Congestion Charges for MISO/SPP Pseudo-Tie Transactions

On June 18, 2020, FERC issued an order finding that PJM Interconnection, L.L.C. (“PJM”) has been inconsistently implementing Order No. 1000’s immediate need reliability project exemption and directed PJM to implement certain aspects of the exemption more fully and transparently. Concurrently, in separate orders, FERC concluded there was insufficient evidence to find that either Southwest Power Pool, Inc.’s (“SPP”) or ISO New England Inc.’s (“ISO-NE”) implementation of the immediate need reliability project exemption was unjust, unreasonable, or unduly discriminatory or preferential.
Continue Reading FERC Finds PJM Not In Compliance With Order No. 1000 Immediate Need Reliability Project Exemption

On June 18, 2020, FERC issued a Notice of Inquiry (“NOI”) requesting comment on whether the currently-effective Critical Infrastructure Protection (“CIP”) Reliability Standards adequately address: (i) cybersecurity risks pertaining to data security; (ii) detection of anomalies and events; and (iii) mitigation of cyber security events. FERC also seeks comment on the potential risk of a coordinated cyberattack on geographically distributed targets and whether Commission action, including potential modifications to the CIP Reliability Standards, would be appropriate to address such risk. In addition, FERC staff issued a White Paper seeking comment on a potential new framework for providing transmission incentives to utilities for their cybersecurity investments.
Continue Reading FERC Seeks Comment on Potential Enhancements to CIP Reliability Standards and Potential Transmission Incentives Framework for Cybersecurity Investments

On May 20, 2020, FERC issued a notice that it will convene a Commissioner-led technical conference on Wednesday and Thursday, July 8–9, 2020 from approximately 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Eastern time each day “to consider the ongoing, serious impacts that the emergency conditions caused by COVID-19 are having on various segments of the United States’ energy industry.” The notice stated that the technical conference will explore potential long-term impacts on FERC-regulated entities to ensure the continued efficient functioning of energy markets, electric transmission, transportation of natural gas and oil, and reliable operation of energy infrastructure, while also protecting consumers.
Continue Reading FERC to Convene Technical Conference on Impacts of COVID-19 on the Energy Industry

On May 21, 2020, FERC issued three orders denying, or denying in part, complaints against PJM Interconnection, L.L.C. (“PJM”), finding that the complainants failed to demonstrate that PJM’s pseudo-tie rules are unjust, unreasonable, or unduly discriminatory or that such rules had been applied in a manner inconsistent with the PJM Tariff. With respect to PJM’s market-to-market flowgate test and its electrical distance requirement, however, FERC granted the complaints in part, finding that PJM’s Tariff fails to provide an open and transparent process regarding PJM’s administration of those requirements.
Continue Reading FERC Finds PJM Tariff Lacks Transparency for Pseudo-Tied Resources

On May 21, 2020, FERC reversed, on rehearing, an earlier determination from October 2017 that the Commission has the authority to require the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc. (“MISO”) to revise its Transmission, Energy and Operating Reserve Markets Tariff (“Tariff”) to include refund commitments by non-public utility transmission owning members. FERC found that although it has authority to review non-public utility rates included in jurisdictional rates (such as MISO’s), it was neither necessary nor appropriate to impose the refund commitment contemplated on non-public transmission owners in MISO. FERC also dismissed, as moot, MISO’s compliance filing submitted in response to the October 2017 Order, and terminated various related proceedings.

Continue Reading On Rehearing, FERC Decides Not to Require Prospective Refund Commitment from Non-Public Utility Transmission Owners

On May 21, 2020, FERC issued Opinion No. 569-A, which revised the Commission’s methodology for determining whether an established rate of return on equity (“ROE”) is just and reasonable under section 206 of the Federal Power Act (“FPA”). Among other things, Opinion No. 569-A accepts the use of a third financial model for establishing just and reasonable ROE for Transmission Owners (“TOs”)—the “Risk Premium Model” (which was rejected in an earlier opinion)—in addition to the previously accepted two-step discount cash flow (“DCF”) model and capital asset pricing model (“CAPM”). Commissioner Richard Glick dissented in part, arguing that FERC was “once again changing course and revamping [its] ROE methodology” to the detriment of regulatory certainty among TOs and investors. In a related action, FERC contemporaneously issued a Policy Statement clarifying that the newly revised ROE methodology in Opinion No. 569-A applies to natural gas and oil pipelines, with certain exceptions.
Continue Reading FERC Revises Public Utility ROE Methodology; Sets Policy for Natural Gas, Oil Pipelines