On June 12, 2019, FERC issued an order on paper hearing (“June 12 Order”) finding that Southwest Power Pool, Inc.’s (“SPP”) quick-start pricing practices are unjust and unreasonable and directing SPP to revise its Open Access Transmission Tariff (“Tariff”) to: implement quick-start pricing provisions in order to more accurately reflect the marginal cost of serving load; provide clear and transparent price signals that better reflect investment decisions; minimize production costs; and reduce uplift. Quick-start resources (also referred to as “fast-start resources”) are able to start within ten minutes or less to meet transient or unforeseen system needs. Previously, energy supply from quick-start resources had not necessarily been included in SPP’s unified pricing and dispatch run, but after the June 12 Order, quick-start resources in SPP may participate in setting market-clearing energy prices under certain circumstances.
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On June 4, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (“D.C. Circuit”) upheld FERC’s authorization for Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company (“Tennessee”) to build a new natural gas compressor station as part of its Broad Run Expansion Project (“the Project”).  Petitioners had argued, among other items, that FERC’s decision to approve the Project violated the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) by failing to address the reasonably foreseeable indirect environmental impacts resulting from: 1) increased gas production upstream of the Project, and 2) increased gas combustion downstream of the Project.  While the D.C. Circuit rejected the Petitioners’ arguments, it did so on jurisdictional grounds.  After concluding that FERC should have asked Tennessee for information about the upstream and downstream indirect environmental effects associated with the Project, the D.C. Circuit held that it lacked jurisdiction to conclude that FERC acted arbitrarily or capriciously because Petitioners did not argue that FERC violated NEPA by failing to seek out this information.
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On May 16, 2019, FERC’s Offices of Electric Reliability and Enforcement issued the Summer 2019 Reliability and Energy Market Assessment (“2019 Summer Assessment”), a high-level summary of anticipated reliability challenges for the upcoming operating season and prospective assessment of electric and natural gas markets.  While higher than average temperatures are predicted for the West, South, and Eastern regions of the country this summer, the report concludes that reserve margins—a measure of the projected capability of anticipated resources to serve forecasted peak load—will be adequate in all regions except the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (“ERCOT”).  The 2019 Summer Assessment also predicts high hydroelectric power production in California, continued rapid growth in battery storage, wind, and solar capacity, as well as growth in demand for natural gas driven by new LNG export capacity.
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On May 16, 2019, FERC issued four orders on related complaints against the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc. (“MISO”) by Tilton Energy LLC (“Tilton”), American Municipal Power, Inc. (“AMP”), and Dynegy Marketing and Trade, LLC/Illinois Power Marketing Company (“Dynegy Companies” or “Dynegy”), as well as a complaint against PJM Interconnection, L.L.C. (“PJM”) by AMP and the Northern Illinois Municipal Power Agency (“NIMPA”).  The complaints alleged that MISO’s and PJM’s assessment of congestion and other costs for resources physically located in MISO but pseudo-tied into PJM violated MISO’s and PJM’s Tariffs by imposing duplicative charges.  The complaints also alleged that MISO and PJM subjected the complainants to unjust and unreasonable duplicative congestion charges.  FERC’s orders denied arguments that MISO’s and PJM’s assessment of congestion and other charges violated their respective Tariffs, but found that MISO and PJM may have assessed duplicative congestion charges prior to FERC’s acceptance of revisions to the MISO-PJM Joint Operating Agreement (“JOA”) to address such charges beginning in July 2018.  After consolidating the proceedings, FERC’s orders established hearing and settlement procedures to determine appropriate refunds.
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On May 1, 2019, FERC denied Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s (“PG&E”) requests for rehearing of two prior orders in which FERC held that it and the bankruptcy courts have concurrent jurisdiction to review and address the disposition of wholesale power contracts sought to be rejected through bankruptcy.  FERC’s order comes as the PG&E bankruptcy proceedings in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California (“Bankruptcy Court”) remain ongoing.  The May 1 order affirmed FERC’s earlier conclusions in response to petitions from NextEra Energy, Inc./NextEra Energy Partners and Exelon Corporation that a party to a FERC-jurisdictional wholesale power contract must obtain approval from both the bankruptcy court and FERC to reject a contract and to modify the filed rate, respectively (see January 30, 2019 edition of the WER).  FERC clarified that rendering a determination on rejection motions was solely within the bankruptcy court’s province, but also made clear that rejection would not relieve PG&E of its separate regulatory obligations under the Federal Power Act.  The order may provide comfort to the Bankruptcy Court, which expressed concern over its exclusive authority to approve a rejection at an April 10 hearing.
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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.
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On April 15, 2019, FERC accepted PJM Interconnection, L.L.C.’s (“PJM”) changes to its Variable Resource Requirement (“VRR”) demand curve as well as key cost inputs to the curve, in connection with PJM’s 2019 Base Residual Auction for the 2022/2023 Delivery Year.  While FERC concluded that PJM’s proposal would produce accurate market signals, encourage appropriate capacity investment, and achieve an adequate level of reliability, the decision sparked a dissent from Commissioner Glick, who argued that PJM failed to show that its proposed VRR curve would produce just and reasonable rates.  Commissioner Glick added that the proposal did not go far enough to correct either oversupply of generation in the capacity market or distorted price signals for Energy and Ancillary (“EAS”) services.
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On April 3, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (“D.C. Circuit”) issued an unpublished opinion dismissing challenges to three FERC orders that granted certificates of public convenience and necessity to Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company, LLC (“Transco”) for three interstate pipeline projects: the Virginia Southside Expansion Project, the Dalton Expansion Project, and the Atlantic Sunrise Project (see previous reports on challenges to the Atlantic Sunrise Project in the December 12, 2017 edition of the WER and the September 12, 2018 edition of the WER).  The D.C. Circuit found that the North Carolina Utilities Commission (“NCUC”) and the New York State Public Service Commission (“NYSPSC”) lacked standing to challenge FERC’s orders because they did not show a “substantial probability” that gas transported by the Atlantic Sunrise Project would flow to their states, and did not provide any evidence of injury resulting from the Dalton Expansion and Virginia Southside Expansion Projects.
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On March 29, 2019, FERC issued an order accepting revisions to the Midcontinent Independent System Operator Inc.’s (“MISO”) Open Access Transmission, Energy, and Operating Reserve Markets Tariff (“Tariff”) to enhance the scheduling of Generator Planned Outages—i.e., the scheduled removal of a generator from service for inspection, maintenance, or repair.  While MISO previously managed planned outages through voluntary rescheduling, the Tariff revisions at issue: 1) impose penalties for outages scheduled during low capacity margin, high risk periods, and 2) assist generators in scheduling outages by improving the transparency and quality of generator outage information through MISO’s maintenance margin tool. In accepting MISO’s proposal, FERC concluded that these measures would address recent increases in emergency events by incenting generators to schedule planned outages in advance, and by improving MISO’s ability to coordinate these outages to avoid emergency events.
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On Monday, March 25, 2019, ISO New England, Inc. (“ISO-NE”) filed a proposal with FERC for an interim inventoried energy program that would provide incremental compensation to generation resources that store fuel onsite during winter months. ISO-NE’s filing explains that a key contributor to the region’s winter energy security concerns is its reliance on gas deliveries from the interstate pipeline network, which can become constrained during winter cold spells, and that lack of on-site fuel sources during these cold spells can lead to loss of load events.  ISO-NE seeks to reduce this concern by directly compensating generation resources for maintaining “inventoried energy,” defined as “fuel or potential energy that a resource can convert to electric energy at the ISO’s direction.”  The proposal is intended as an interim measure to complement the ISO’s ongoing efforts to develop a long-term, market-based solution to the region’s fuel security challenges.  The ISO believes that the program will contribute to the region’s winter energy security by providing incremental revenue to generation resources that store fuel on-site, reducing the amount of revenue those resources must recover through the capacity market, and decreasing the likelihood that such resources will seek to retire.  However, ISO-NE also clarified that it cannot guarantee that the program will “incent specific resources to take precise actions that improve winter energy security or deter any particular resource that would otherwise be economic from retiring.”
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