A Breakdown of the Respective Roles that FERC, EPA, and State Regulators Play to Support a Cleaner & More Reliable Electric Grid
Multiple federal and state regulators must coordinate their efforts to ensure electric grid reliability, particularly during a period of major transition, and it is important to understand what role each of them plays. This report reviews the respective roles of FERC, RTOs/ISOs, other transmission operators, state public utility commissions, and state environmental regulators. EPA’s duty to reduce GHG emissions that endanger public health and FERC’s duty to steward grid reliability will require them to coordinate each other’s respective expertise as they work with RTOs/ISOs, state regulators, and utilities to implement EPA rules.
Published in the Columbia Journal of Environmental Law
Natural gas plays an outsized role in the U.S. economy. Under the Natural Gas Act, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or the Commission) is responsible for overseeing the orderly development of interstate natural gas pipelines, which facilitate the transmission of natural gas throughout the country. FERC can approve the pipeline only if it finds that it is required by the “public convenience and necessity.” Although FERC should consider a range of factors to determine whether a pipeline will serve the public interest, in practice, it looks primarily to the contracts between a developer and its customers for the purchase of pipeline capacity. If a developer can demonstrate that there is a party willing to pay to use its pipeline, FERC rarely asks questions and almost always finds “public” need. This pipeline-by-pipeline approach to natural gas transmission build-out leads to the construction of unnecessary, underused pipelines, which in turn increases ratepayer costs and decreases consumer welfare. Climate change further increases the risk that pipelines will become obsolete as cities and states move toward electrification. Relying on economic theory, legal history, and policy analysis, we make the case in this paper—pulished in the Columbia Journal of Environmental Law— for FERC’s adoption of regional gas transmission planning.
Rethinking Modeling Approaches
This report examines the critical role of modeling details and assumptions that transmission planners frequently ignore. We first provide an overview of the wide array of choices planners have when designing traditional transmission planning models. We then discuss how planners need to rethink these choices to account for the rapidly evolving energy system and the additional uncertainties climate change brings. Finally, we present a modeling case study to show how important these modeling choices could be for transmission outcomes.
The devastating 2021 blackout in Texas, among others, has highlighted the need to reform electricity markets to make them resilient to extreme weather events. In this paper, we review related efforts by system planners and operators within electricity market contexts, focusing on Europe and the United States, and we analyze possible reforms to electricity capacity markets. To account for extreme weather events, capacity requirements and markets, along with other regulatory measures throughout the electricity and fuel supply chains, should be modified. First, capacity requirements must be tailored to the specific severe weather failure modes applicable to a given power system to achieve policymakers' reliability and resiliency objectives: reducing the frequency, magnitude and duration of blackouts. Second, all capacity requirements should be cost-effective and integrated with other non-capacity resources and requirements, such as transmission, distribution and other infrastructure systems. Third, for a capacity market to produce the desired efficiency benefits, the product (capacity) must be well-defined and backed by sufficient credit and other policies to ensure providers have sufficient incentives to perform when called.
The Impact of West Virginia v. EPA on Challenges to FERC’s Authority Under the Major Questions Doctrine
Published in Energy Bar Association Brief
The Supreme Court’s recent applications of the major questions doctrine have prompted numerous challenges to pending or proposed regulatory actions, including the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC’s) proposed revisions to Order No. 1000’s regional transmission-planning and cost-allocation rules (Transmission Rulemaking) and updated draft policy statements on certification of new interstate natural gas facilities (Draft Policy Statements). This article addresses the impact of West Virginia v. EPA—the most recent Supreme Court case involving the major questions doctrine—on FERC’s regulatory authority.
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