On February 20, 2020, FERC issued a notice of inquiry (“NOI”) to learn more about the potential benefits and risks of virtualization and cloud computing services in the bulk electric system operations. The NOI also seeks information about the barriers that exist in FERC-approved Critical Infrastructure Protection (“CIP”) Reliability Standards that impede the voluntary adoption of virtualization or cloud computing services.

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On January 31, 2020, FERC rejected Southwest Power Pool, Inc.’s (“SPP”) proposed Tariff revisions to eliminate SPP’s current policy of offering transmission revenue credits as reimbursement for certain transmission network upgrades, and to instead provide term- and value-limited transmission congestion rights for all such upgrades. Under SPP’s proposal, a party that funds certain network upgrades would receive incremental transmission congestion rights for a limited term of up to twenty years or until the party that sponsored the upgrade recovered their costs, with interest. FERC held that this cap on recovery would disincentivize construction of merchant transmission projects, and rejected SPP’s proposal without prejudice to SPP submitting a revised proposal that does not impose a cap on the term and value of the incremental transmission congestion rights.
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On January 30, 2020, FERC accepted revisions to the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc. (“MISO”) planning resource auction participation rules for resources expecting extended outages during the planning year.  FERC simultaneously dismissed as moot an earlier-filed complaint by Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative (“Wolverine”) that alleged MISO’s Open Access Transmission, Energy and Operating Reserves Markets Tariff (“Tariff”) was unjust and unreasonable because it allowed resources with MISO-approved outages for the entire planning year to participate in the resource auction.
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On January 23, 2020, FERC accepted New York Independent System Operator, Inc.’s (“NYISO”) proposed revisions to its Tariffs to allow the aggregation of resources, including distributed energy resources (“DERs”), for purposes of participation in the NYISO markets. FERC found that NYISO’s proposed aggregation model (“Aggregation Participation Model”) provided a just and reasonable and not unduly discriminatory framework for such participation.
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On January 14, 2019, FERC issued a letter order accepting, as of October 15, 2019, Midcontinent Independent System Operator’s (“MISO”) proposal to implement a “Fast First” Automatic Generation Control (“AGC”) framework that, as MISO argues, would deploy fast-ramping generation resources more efficiently.  MISO explained that the Fast First AGC framework would better utilize and incentivize fast-ramping resources, including energy storage resources (“ESRs”), for frequency regulation.  MISO stated that, with increased supply-side volatility on its system due to integration of intermittent renewable resources, new AGC signals were needed for better system control and to better utilize the fast response rate of fast-ramping resources.
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On December 12, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (“Sixth Circuit”) issued an opinion affirming in part and reversing in part a bankruptcy court’s assertion of exclusive and unlimited jurisdiction over certain of FirstEnergy Solutions’ (“FES”) power purchase agreements that FERC had previously approved under the Federal Power Act (“FPA”) and that FES sought to reject in bankruptcy. While the Sixth Circuit agreed that the bankruptcy court has jurisdiction to decide whether FES may reject the contracts, it rejected the bankruptcy court’s decision to enjoin FERC from taking any action relating to the contracts, and permitting FES to reject the contracts. Characterizing the bankruptcy court’s decision as “a rash and unnecessary overreach,” the Sixth Circuit held that the injunction issued against FERC was overly broad, and the bankruptcy court’s standard for deciding whether to permit FES to reject the contracts too limited. The Sixth Circuit also rejected the bankruptcy court’s sole application of the business judgment rule to decide whether to permit FES to reject the contracts at issue. Rather, the Sixth Circuit held that the court should have also taken public interest considerations into account, and should have invited FERC to participate and provide an opinion in accordance with the FPA. Judge Richard Allen Griffin penned separate opinion dissenting in part, in which he concluded that the bankruptcy court exceeded its jurisdiction and infringed on FERC’s exclusive jurisdiction to decide whether to modify or abrogate a filed rate.
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On November 26, 2019, FERC rejected, without prejudice, various filings from Basin Electric Power Cooperative (“Basin”) to establish FERC-jurisdictional rates, terms, and conditions of wholesale power and transmission service ahead of certain anticipated changes among Basin’s member cooperatives that would trigger FERC jurisdiction. FERC generally rejected the filings as “patently” deficient.
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On November 14, 2019, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (“Committee”) held a hearing to consider the nomination of Dan Brouillette as Secretary of Energy. Mr. Brouillette is currently DOE’s Deputy Secretary, and has been nominated by President Trump to replace outgoing Secretary Rick Perry.
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On November 1, 2019 FERC approved a Stipulation and Consent Agreement between its Office of Enforcement (“OE”), the regional reliability entity Texas Reliability Entity, Inc. (“Texas RE”), the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (“NERC”), and Calpine Corporation (“Calpine”), related to Calpine’s alleged violations of NERC reliability standards governing maintenance and testing of batteries and other protection systems, as well as provisions of the California Independent System Operator Corporation (“CAISO”) Tariff requiring entities to report planned and unplanned generator outages. As part of the settlement, Calpine neither admitted nor denied the alleged violations, but agreed to pay civil penalties of $375,000 to Texas RE and $25,000 to the United States Treasury, and to undergo compliance monitoring.
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On October 24, 2019, FERC denied Harbor Cogeneration Company, LLC’s (“Harbor”) complaint alleging that Southern California Edison Company (“SoCal Edison”) misclassified certain interconnection facilities contrary to FERC’s Order No. 2003 and violated SoCal Edison’s Transmission Owner Tariff (“TO Tariff”) in directly assigning the facility costs to Harbor without FERC “approval.” FERC denied the complaint and rejected Harbor’s request for refunds, reasoning that the charges constituted valid filed rates notwithstanding that FERC did not use the word “approve” in its delegated letter orders, and that, therefore, the charges were lawfully imposed regardless of any alleged conflicts with FERC interconnection pricing policies.
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