The utility industry has a reputation for being stodgy and slow to innovate and change. Yet one of its main regulators is quite different. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has often taken the lead when it comes to embracing technology and adopting new ways of connecting with the public. From electronic filing to webcasts of public meetings, the FERC seemed to be an early adopter. Last month, FERC did it again with the launch of “Open Access,” the podcast series. According to host Craig Cano, the goal is

“to have a conversation about FERC, what it does and how that can affect you. FERC can get very legal and very technical, so we will strive to keep it simple.”

The podcast begins by explaining what FERC does:

“… oversees the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas and oil. FERC’s authority also includes review of proposals to build interstate natural gas pipelines and liquefied natural gas terminals, and licensing of nonfederal hydropower projects. FERC protects the reliability of the high-voltage interstate transmission system through mandatory reliability standards and it monitors interstate energy markets to ensure that everyone in those markets is playing by the rules.”

In the first episode, Mary O’Driscoll of FERC talks with Charles Curtis, the first chairman of the FERC. They take a walk down memory lane where I learned the good ole days were not always so good. The former commissioner states,

“The Federal Power Commission, before it, was a commission in significant disarray. It had a decisional process that assigned the Commission about 22,000 decisions per year, and it had a backlog of some 20 to 25 years of matters awaiting decision of the Commission.”

Ouch, I can’t imagine any business waiting that long for adjudication.

In the second episode, Ms. O’Driscoll connects us with then-commissioner Tony Clark, who reflects on his time at the Commission as he prepared to leave at the end of September 2016. Former commissioner Clark served one term at FERC, having been nominated by President Obama and sworn in on June 15, 2012. Prior to that, he served 12 years as a member of the North Dakota Public Service Commission, including a term as its president. With this being one of the most lethal presidential elections since I have been voting, it is refreshing to hear former commissioner Clark discuss FERC’s nonpartisan approach:

“When you’re talking about something as important as energy, which is critical to the safety and well-being of the nation’s economy and our people, you want to have decisions that are made in a nonpartisan, nonpolitical way. … You may disagree from time to time with commissioners on a certain issue, but it tends to not be political. It is often said around here there’s not a Republican way or a Democrat way to keep the lights on. So I think that nonpartisan nature of it makes it easy to work with people in good faith. Over the four-plus years that I’ve been here it would be difficult to find any particular pattern in terms of vote. Here was a coalition of commissioners that always voted together and here is the other side that voted together in a bloc on certain things. It never worked that way. And I think the key is you have to maintain a degree of collegiality and respect.”

Wow! The house, the senate and candidates should take note! You can listen to both episodes here.

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.

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