On October 17, 2019, FERC issued its 2019-2020 Winter Energy Market Assessment (“Assessment”), which is a summary of staff’s expectations about market preparedness, including a high‐level assessment of the risks and challenges anticipated in the coming winter operating season. In its 2019-2020 Assessment, FERC highlighted that: 1) the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (“NOAA”) forecasts a warmer than average winter; 2) natural gas storage levels are expected to be average going into the winter; 3) natural gas futures prices are lower than last winter; 4) a diverse and changing generation resource mix will maintain electric reliability this winter; and 5) expected winter reserve margins exceed reference levels in all regions.

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On October 17, 2019, FERC denied rehearing of its order denying a complaint filed by CXA La Paloma, LLC (“La Paloma”), which argued that the California Independent System Operator Corporation’s (“CAISO”) resource adequacy regime had become unjust and unreasonable. Stakeholders asserted, among other things, that FERC ignored certain evidence suggesting inadequate capacity prices would lead to near-term reliability problems; FERC disagreed, restating the evidence and arguments initially presented in the complaint, and explaining that based on the evidence presented it did not find CAISO’s resource adequacy regime unjust and unreasonable. In its order denying rehearing, FERC weighed in (again) on low capacity prices and reliability concerns in California, as well as the scope of its section 206 authority.     
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On October 4, 2019, FERC staff issued a report for users, operators, and owners of the bulk-power system to increase compliance with mandatory Critical Infrastructure Protection (“CIP”) standards and improve cybersecurity for the nation’s electric grid. In the report, FERC staff recommended, among other things, that entities:

  1. verify employees’ recurring authorizations for using removable media;
  2. ensure all employees and third-party contractors complete required trainings and properly maintain training records;
  3. consider all generation assets when categorizing bulk electric system cyber systems associated with transmission facilities; and
  4. review all firewalls to ensure there are no obsolete or overly permissive firewall access control rules in use.


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On September 27, 2019, FERC approved CAISO tariff revisions to its voluntary Capacity Procurement Mechanism (“CPM”) and mandatory Reliability-Must-Run (“RMR”) framework such that all backstop procurement from resources that would otherwise retire or mothball will be addressed through CAISO’s RMR provisions. While FERC has traditionally considered RMR contracts as measures of last resort, FERC found it just and reasonable for CAISO to expand its use of such contracts to address evolving operational needs due, in part, to the increased penetration of variable energy resources in California. Commissioner Glick partially dissented, arguing that the approved tariff changes essentially provide CAISO “unchecked authority” to enter into out-of-market contracts to meet its resource adequacy needs.
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On September 4, 2019, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (“NERC”) published a Lessons Learned report (“Report”) analyzing a March 5, 2019 cybersecurity incident that caused brief communications outages across several states.  NERC also provided guidance on how to avoid the firewall firmware vulnerabilities that made the cybersecurity incident possible.
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On August 30, 2019, FERC instituted a section 206 proceeding to require PJM Interconnection, L.L.C. (“PJM”) to revise its Amended and Restated Operating Agreement (the “PJM Operating Agreement”) in light of a recent reversal from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (the “D.C. Circuit”).  In the new section 206 proceeding, FERC is requiring PJM to revise the PJM Operating Agreement to include projects needed solely to address Form No. 715 local planning criteria in PJM’s competitive proposal process, or to show cause why such revisions are not required.  In a concurrent order on remand, FERC also rejected revisions to the PJM Transmission Owner Tariff that had previously been amended to clarify that 100 percent of the costs for projects that are included in the PJM Regional Transmission Expansion Plan (“RTEP”) solely to address individual transmission owner Form No. 715 local planning criteria should be allocated to the transmission owner’s transmission zone.  FERC expects to issue a final order on the section 206 proceeding within 180 days.
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On August 27, 2019, FERC staff and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (“NERC”) staff (collectively, “Staff”) jointly issued a white paper on Notices of Penalty (“NOP”) for violating Critical Infrastructure Protection (“CIP”) Reliability Standards, which details requirements for Bulk Power System cyber security.  Staff elected to draft the white paper in response to the increase in Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) requests for the disclosure of non-public information in CIP NOPs, such as the identity of the CIP violator.  The overarching objective of the proposal is to provide increased transparency, while protecting sensitive security information that could jeopardize the Bulk Power System if made public.  If approved, the proposal will not have a retroactive effect on pending matters, or CIP NOPs already filed with the Commission.

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On June 20, 2019, FERC approved revisions to the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc.’s (“MISO”) Tariff which permit MISO to share, without notice to its market participants, confidential information with federal cybersecurity authorities in response to detected cyber intrusions or weaknesses in electric utility infrastructure that have the potential to compromise reliability and call for immediate action.  FERC concluded that MISO’s proposal allows for greater information sharing with the appropriate federal agencies before a potential cybersecurity threat becomes an emergency, and appropriately maintains the confidentiality of the information at issue.
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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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