Emergency Preparedness and Operations Reliability Standards

Most of the world was stunned to hear that Hurricane Maria left the island of Puerto Rico completely without electricity. When Hurricane Irma hit Florida, utilities across the United States sent thousands of linemen and other utility workers to assist Florida utilities. The picture below highlights a portion of the visiting crews ready to provide help.    

Photo credit: Eversource

Upon hearing of an island-wide blackout, I thought, “Crews drove across the United States to Florida. The effort required to send utility trucks and other equipment to Puerto Rico will be epic. Ferries will be in high demand.” And sadly, even before the island was hit by Hurricane Maria, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority had already filed for bankruptcy in July 2017. The Authority stated then it needed more than $4 billion to overhaul its outdated power plants and reduce its heavy reliance on imported oil. In 2016, 47% of Puerto Rico’s electricity came from petroleum, 34% from natural gas, 17% from coal and 2% from renewable energy. Most American utilities rely on natural gas, coal, nuclear and renewable resources. Fuel source aside, how does a utility recover from an island-wide outage?

In the U.S., the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has rules to address this very issue. And on September 20, 2017 the FERC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) regarding revised Emergency Preparedness and Operations (EOP) Reliability Standards (please note that the document is large and may take some time to load) submitted by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), intended to:

  • provide accurate reporting of events to NERC’s event analysis group to analyze the impact on the reliability of the bulk electric system (EOP-004-4);
  • delineate the roles and responsibilities of entities that support system restoration from blackstart resources that generate power without the support of the grid (EOP-005-3);
  • clarify the procedures and coordination requirements for reliability coordinator personnel to execute system restoration processes (EOP-006-3); and
  • refine the required elements of an operating plan used to continue reliable operations of the bulk electric system if that primary control functionality is lost (EOP-008-2). 

I appreciate the work done by regulators and utilities to provide a reliable and resilient electric grid. Comments on the NOPR are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register

If you are new to the industry or simply want to brush up on the basics, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) consider the recently released Reliability Primer a gift. The comprehensive manual not only provides an overview of the FERC’s role in overseeing the reliable operation of the power grid, it provides a great overview of the electric power system. It should be required reading for electric utility employees, especially new hires and those with legal or regulatory responsibilities. This manual helps newcomers develop foundational knowledge in an industry riddled with acronyms and jargon. Its title, Reliability Primer, could very well have been Electricity 101 and 102.

Starting on page 10, the Primer begins with the basics, providing a detailed discussion about the three main functions of the electric system; generation, transmission and distribution. In the discussion regarding generation, the Primer explains the various types of power plants, ranging from thermal to renewables such as wind and solar. Data on energy sources is also provided. With the fracking boom, it is not surprising that natural gas is the leader with coal and nuclear rounding out the top three fuel sources.

If you want to understand the FERC’s authority under the Federal Power Act (FPA), section III of the Primer provides a detailed discussion. It explains the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and the FERC’s implementation of Section 215 of the FPA. The reader will gain an understanding of the FERC’s authority and oversight in the development and enforcement of mandatory reliability standards for the nation’s bulk power grid. The FERC states the Primer is written to be used as a traditional text or reference manual and I agree. 

Industry Wide Collaboration to Drive Solar Costs Down Through Efficient Data Exchange

By: Gatsheena Beauplan 

The Orange ButtonSM initiative has launched! As part of the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot initiative, the Orange Button initiative is designed to standardize data across the solar project lifecycle, enhance data quality, and make solar transactions more efficient.  By creating solar data standards, open marketplaces, and tools for accessing data by the private sector, Orange Button aims to improve market transparency in a self-sustaining manner.

The SGIP (Smart Grid Interoperability Panel) and partner SEIA (Solar Energy Industries Association) are tasked with organizing a wide array of market participants to drive strategy and to collect business requirements from a variety of perspectives.  Through this collaboration, collective output will be incorporated into the design and implementation of specific data tools aimed to facilitate the Orange Button objectives. To accomplish its goals, SGIP and SEIA are forming five Strategy and Business Requirements Working Groups. 

The groups include:

  • Deployment – Focused on the data needs associated with structural and electrical safety and other permitting concerns. This working group will include building code and safety standards experts, project developers, and other relevant stakeholders.
  • Financial Engaged in supporting efficient finance for projects, as well as efficient financial reporting practices during project operation. This working group will examine data practices for tax and accounting systems, streamlining information exchange between banks and developers to assess development risk, and the data exchange environment necessary to conduct effective financial asset management activities.
  • Grid Integration – Focused on the data needs for utilities, ISOs, and solar developers with regard to new utility-scale and behind-the-meter connections.
  • Real Estate – Focused on data requirements of the real estate industry (as they are relevant to solar projects) to deploy projects at various types of commercial real estate (e.g., owner-occupation of buildings, types of lease structures held by tenants).
  • Solar O&M – Focused on all data requirements behind project operations and maintenance practices and cost models.

Interested in joining one of the Orange Button Strategy and Business Requirements working groups listed above? Click the register button below:


For more information on the Orange Button initiative, click here to view the Orange Button Overview webinar that was hosted by SGIP on May 26th, 2016.

Orange Button Initiative.jpg

When the government shutdown began, the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (“NRC”) stated it had enough carryover funds to stay open for about a week. Unfortunately, October 9 was the last full day of “normal” operations for the agency that regulates commercial nuclear power plants and other uses of nuclear materials, such as in nuclear medicine, through licensing, inspection and enforcement of its requirements. Details can be found on the NRC’s blog, where Chairman Allison Macfarlane states:

Beginning on Thursday, we will not conduct non-emergency reactor licensing, reactor license renewal amendments, emergency preparedness exercises, reviews of design certifications or rulemaking and regulatory guidance…

Let me stress, however, that all of our resident inspectors will remain on the job and any immediate safety or security matters will be handled with dispatch. We can — and will without hesitation — bring employees out of furlough to respond to an emergency. We must, in this regard, err on the side of safety and security.

The U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”), which manages over 245 million acres, recently published in the Federal Register an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to give the public background information about the BLM’s interest in establishing an efficient, competitive process for issuing right-of-way (ROW) leases for solar and wind energy development on public lands. BLM believes the existing regulations limit the competitive process to procedures for responding to overlapping right-of-way applications. The BLM is seeking input on how best to offer public lands through a nomination and competitive process instead of just by right-of-way application.

Some of the questions BLM would like addressed in comments are: 

  • How should a competitive process be structured for leasing lands within designated solar and wind energy development leasing areas?
  • Should a competitive leasing process be implemented for public lands outside of designated solar and wind energy development leasing areas? If so, how should such a competitive leasing process be structured?
  • What competitive bidding procedures should the BLM adopt?
  • What is the appropriate term for a competitive solar energy ROW lease?
  • What is the appropriate term for a competitive wind energy ROW lease?
  • How should the bidding process for competitive solar and wind energy ROW leases be structured to ensure receipt of fair market value?
  • Should a standard performance bond be required for competitive solar and wind energy ROW leases and how should the bond amount be determined?  

Because this discussion is specifically focused on the development of the competitive process, comments are not being requested regarding solar and wind energy environmental issues. Comments are due by February 27, 2012.

DOE, EPA and the Center for Resource Solutions (CRS) are co-sponsoring the 2011 Green Power Leadership Awards. The awards serve to recognize the leading actions of organizations, programs and individuals that significantly advance the development of green power sources. Nominations are due June 21, 2011. Self-nominations or nominations on behalf of another party are accepted. There is no limit to the number of nominations that can be submitted per party or under any award category. With eleven different award categories, surely there is a green leader you know.

Award Categories


EPA Award Categories

  • Green Power Partner of the Year: Recognizes Partners who distinguish themselves through their purchase, leadership, overall strategy, and impact on the green power market.
  • Green Power Community of the Year: EPA Green Power Communities that distinguish themselves through their green power usage, leadership, citizen engagement, renewable energy strategy, and impact on the green power market.
  • On-site Generation: Recognizes Partners who distinguish themselves using on-site renewable energy applications including, but not limited to, solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind energy projects.
  • Green Power Purchase: Recognizes Partners who distinguish themselves through purchases of green power from a utility green-pricing program, a competitive green marketer, or a renewable energy certificate (REC) supplier.

DOE Award Categories

  •  Utility Green Power Program of the Year: Recognizes utilities that are leaders in designing and implementing a voluntary renewable energy offering. This category is open to all utilities (municipal, rural electric cooperative, or investor-owned utility) offering voluntary renewable energy programs to their customers.
  • Non-Utility Green Power Supplier of the Year: Recognizes non-utility providers (e.g., marketer or other entity) that supply renewable energy to residential or nonresidential consumers who make voluntary purchases of renewable energy.
  • Innovative Green Power Program of the Year: Recognizes organizations that are advancing green power markets through innovative approaches to delivering green power to the marketplace. This category is open to all utilities offering voluntary renewable energy programs to their customers or non-utility providers.

CRS Award Categories

  • Best Marketing Campaign by a Green Power Supplier: To recognize an innovative marketing campaign by green power suppliers. Marketing materials and themes that are inventive and original will be recognized. Materials used across all media (print, radio, TV, Web, and collateral materials) are eligible for entry.
  • Best Green Power Education Outreach Program: To recognize effective and unique outreach programs focusing on education related to green power. This award will honor work that spreads the word about the environmental benefits of green power and efforts to boost public interest in renewable energy.
  • Best Marketing Campaign by a Green Power Purchaser: To recognize an outstanding promotional campaign by a purchaser of green power. This award will honor a company or organization that has purchased or generated green power and has actively promoted their use of green power internally or externally in an innovative or compelling way.
  • Green Power Pioneer: To recognize cutting-edge outreach efforts by an individual for helping to create the green power industry. The pioneer award will acknowledge continuous achievement, vision, and dedications to green power.

Entergy Corporation announced that two of its subsidiaries, Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee, LLC (“ENVY”) and Entergy Nuclear Operations, Inc. (“ENOI”) have filed a complaint in U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont seeking a judgment to prevent the state of Vermont from forcing the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant to cease operation on March 21, 2012.

The April 18, 2011 request for declaratory and injunctive relief follows the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (“NRC”) March 21, 2011, renewal of Vermont Yankee’s operating license authorizing the plant’s operation through March 21, 2032. The NRC’s action came after a thorough and exhaustive five-year safety and environmental review of the plant.

The lawsuit is primarily based on the following legal principles:

  • “Atomic Energy Act Preemption. Under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S Constitution, the U.S. Supreme Court held in 1983 in a case involving Pacific Gas & Electric that a state has no authority over (1) nuclear power plant licensing and operations or (2) the radiological safety of a nuclear power plant. In violation of these legal principles, Vermont has asserted that it can shut down a federally licensed and operating nuclear power plant and that it can regulate the plant based upon Vermont’s safety concerns.
  • Federal Power Act Preemption and the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Vermont is prohibited from conditioning post-March 2012 operation of the Vermont Yankee Station on the plant’s agreement to provide power to Vermont utilities at preferential wholesale rates. The Federal Power Act preempts any state interference with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s exclusive regulation of rates in the wholesale power market. The Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution bars a state from discriminatory regulation of private markets that favors in-state over out-of-state residents.“ Entergy Press Release

This battle between Entergy and the State of Vermont can be traced back to the 2002 Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) that settled the litigation related to Entergy’s purchase of Vermont Yankee from Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Corporation. Paragraph 12 of the MOU will no doubt be analyzed at least a hundred times before this litigation is resolved. Part of it states the parties, “expressly and irrevocably agree[s]: (a) that the Board has jurisdiction under current law to grant or deny approval of operation of the VYNPS beyond March 21, 2012 and (b) to waive any claim each may have that federal law preempts the jurisdiction of the Board to take the actions and impose the conditions agreed upon in this paragraph to renew, amend or extend the ENVY CPG and ENO CPG to allow operation of the VYNPS after March 21, 2012, or to decline to so renew, amend or extend.”

The world has changed since the 2002 agreement and Entergy believes political maneuvers by the state legislature has now voided the provision Entergy agreed to in good faith. For starters, in 2006, a law was passed prohibiting the Public Service Board from issuing a Certificate of Public Good without express approval from the General Assembly. In an open letter to Vermonters, Entergy provides further details. Given the NRC’s approval, which addresses the safety issue, Vermonters stand to lose 650 jobs and $16,484,000 in state and local taxes based on a 2008 benefits statement.

As part of the Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, on April 8, 2011, Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced approximately $170 million in available funding over the next three years to support a range of solar photovoltaic (PV) technology development. Close to $40 million will be awarded to support the integration of solar energy onto the electric grid. This project will be known as the Solar Energy Grid Integration Systems (SEGIS) – Advanced Concepts. The funding will promote a smarter grid, supporting projects focused on improved energy storage technologies and better system functionality, high voltage systems that reduce the overall installed costs associated with balance of systems components costs for installations and projects focused on technologies like micro-inverters that are capable of harvesting more energy from the sun.

Additionally, projects funded will demonstrate the feasibility of these new technologies in use and will directly support the objectives of the SunShot Initiative, which has a goal to reduce the total costs, including installation of solar energy systems by 75 percent to roughly $1 per watt.

The figure below demonstrates the possibility.

Thumbnail image for centralizedinverter.jpg

There are two topics that may be submitted under this FOA: 

  • Topic 1: Smart-Grid Functionality
  • Topic 2: Using Power Electronics to Address Balance of System Costs

Preliminary applications are due May 9, 2011.

Last week, FERC issued a final rule amending regulations under the Federal Power Act regarding Demand Response Compensation in Organized Wholesale Energy Markets, putting an end to industry speculation over the value of demand response…hopefully. Regional Transmission Organizations (“RTO”) and Independent System Operators (“ISO”) must balance generation and load when clearing the day-ahead and real-time energy markets. Balancing can be accomplished by changes in supply or demand. The Commission found that in the organized wholesale energy market, demand response has the same balancing effect on supply and demand as generation. Therefore, demand response resources should be compensated on an equal basis to generation resources. However, two conditions must be met:

  1. The demand response resource has the capability to provide the service, i.e., the demand response resource must be able to displace a generation resource in a manner that serves the RTO or ISO in balancing supply and demand.
  2. The payment of LMP for the provision of the service by the demand response resource must be cost-effective as determined by the net benefits test.

What is the net benefits test? When is a demand response cost-effective? We will have to wait a little longer to completely answer these questions. RTOs/ISOs are ordered to conduct two studies: By July 22, 2011, RTOs/ISOs must submit an historical analysis of supply curves and revised tariffs. More than a year later by September 21, 2012, a dynamic benefits study must be filed. While time may not be a friend, EnerNOC is having an awesome month at FERC!

On February 22, 2011, demand side management (“DSM”) company EnerNOC, filed a Petition for Declaratory Order requesting that FERC find that EnerNOC and other companies may continue to register customers and settle under PJM’s GLD baseline methodology as they have in previous periods without enforcement action being threatened. GLD is one of three baseline methods prescribed in the PJM business rules for measuring event compliance. GLD is achieved by a customer reducing its load by a predetermined amount (i.e., by the Guaranteed Load Drop or GLD). PJM Tariff, Attachment DD, section H.

EnerNOC’s filing was in response to a joint statement issued by PJM and Monitoring Analytics, LLC, PJM’s Independent Market Monitor (“IMM”), that addresses a double counting issue. The Joint Statement says in part:

The following example illustrates the issue:

  1.  5,000 kW PLC (10/11 Delivery Year) – PLC represents how much capacity has been purchased for customer to ensure reliability. Since the customer actively reduces load during the peaks (“peakshaver”) the PLC is significantly lower than normal amount of load for the customer, which is 28,000 kW.
  2. 4,000 kW Nominated Installed Capacity – CSP commitment for quantity of customer load reduction when PJM needs during an emergency. The nominated amount may not exceed the PLC based on current market rules.
  3. Real time estimated load reduction = 25,000 kW measured as the difference between a baseline estimate based on recent days, 28,000 kW, less actual consumption during the event, or 3,000 kW.
  4. 21,000 kW over compliance – CSP resource will be deemed to have met nominated Installed Capacity commitment of 4,000 kW AND also receive an additional 21,000 kW of over compliance credit which may be used to offset resources within the zone than did not perform.

In addition to substantially overstating the demand side savings and overpaying CSPs, this behavior also provides a non-competitive advantage to CSPs in attracting customers. A CSP that is aware of this Program discrepancy may identify large customers with managed PLCs and offer such customers out of market revenues for any load reduction in excess of the nominated amount. This is profitable because once such a customer has been procured, the CSP has the ability to sign up customers in the same zone with no or only limited ability to reduce load when called upon and receive capacity revenues based on the apparent over compliance of the customers with managed PLCs.

In its Order, FERC states that the Commission does not intend to institute any enforcement actions against EnerNOC (or other similarly situated ARCs) for registering customers in good faith and settling under the GLD baseline methodology. Good faith participation in the PJM load management programs, including accurate customer GLD registration and aggregation during emergency events, is permitted. The Commission goes on to warn that this finding here does not exempt from challenge conduct prohibited under section 1c.2 of the Commission’s regulations. 18 C.F.R. § 1c.2 (2010).