This week, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC or Commission) launched NextGrid, an initiative to explore the utility of the future. It will be an 18-month statewide collaborative aimed at transforming Illinois’ energy landscape and economy. The study will focus on finding new technologies, utility business models and regulatory strategies to transform the state’s grid into a more flexible and efficient resource. NextGrid will be managed by the Commission. An independent third-party facilitator will assist the Commission in engaging electric utilities, communities and stakeholders such as industry, academia, ratepayer advocates and environmental advocates as they examine the following areas:

  1. Consumers, Communities and Economic Development
  2. Grid Design, Digital Networks and Markets 
  3. Regulation and Encouraging Innovation
  4. Climate Change and the Environment

Anne Pramaggiore, ComEd President and CEO, addressed this development:

“We commend the Commission for taking a leadership role in establishing a forum for designing the future-oriented business model and joining ComEd’s effort to maximize the smart grid and deliver new value to customers. We see NextGrid as an opportunity to find common ground on critical issues facing our industry and as a driver of the clean, lean, ultra-resilient energy future our customers want.”

All members of the energy stakeholder community are encouraged and invited to provide input and suggestions regarding the selection of a facilitator and topics to be considered as a part of NextGrid by filing comments in response to the Resolution by April 30, 2017. Comments can be emailed to

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. 

By: Gatsheena Beauplan

What is the Quadrennial Energy Review? The QER enables the federal government to translate policy goals into a set of analytically based, integrated actions for over a four-year time period. As directed by the President, the QER is envisioned as a focused, actionable document designed to provide policymakers, industry, investors and other stakeholders with unbiased data and analysis on energy challenges, needs, requirements and barriers that will inform a range of policy options. 

The deadline for submitting comments to the Quadrennial Energy Review is July 1, 2016 – less than one week away.

The first installment of the QER examined the Nation’s infrastructure for transmission, storage and distribution, including liquid and natural gas pipelines, the grid and shared transport such as rail, waterways,and ports. It was released in April 2015. Given the critical enabling role of electricity articulated in the first installment, the Administration has determined that the second installment of the QER will develop a set of findings and policy recommendations to help guide the modernization of the nation’s electric grid and ensure its continued reliability, safety, affordability and environmental performance through 2040.

If you haven’t submitted comments yet to the second installment of the QER, you only have a few days left to make your thoughts heard.

Submit your comments today.

More information about the QER is available HERE.

In accordance with President Obama’s 2014 Memorandum establishing the Quadrennial Energy Review (QER), the Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced it will begin the second installment of the Quadrennial Energy Review (QER 1.2) aimed at developing findings and policy recommendations to help guide the modernization of the nation’s electric grid. According to DOE’s briefing memorandum, QER 1.2 will focus on ensuring the electric grid’s continued reliability, safety, security, affordability and environmental performance through 2040. It will include an analysis of the fundamental elements that comprise the electricity system, including end use, distribution, transmission, grid operations and planning, generation, markets, finance and security.

Stakeholders are invited to both provide their own views on key issues to be addressed, as well as to respond to any or all of the framing questions in their comments. Additional insights and recommendations for Federal action to address challenges and opportunities associated with modernizing the Nation’s electricity system are welcomed. Here is a snapshot of the Framing Questions for QER 1.2:

Distributed Energy Resources (DER): Demand Response, Distributed Generation and Distributed Energy Storage 

  • How should DER value streams be assessed from different perspectives—customer, utility and society? 
  • What are the major barriers to distributed generation deployment, including financial, technical, transactional and distribution system limitations? 
  • What policies and regulations enable demand response to support variable energy resources at utility scale?

Electricity Consumption and Energy Efficiency by Sector (residential, commercial, industrial, transportation) Status, Trends and Barriers

  • What levels and patterns of electricity consumption exist today and are forecasted for 2040 in the industrial, commercial, residential and transportation sectors?
  • What business models and methods of customer engagement have been most successful, or show he most promise, for deploying residential efficiency measures? What is the role of policy in facilitating these models and methods?  

Electricity Markets

  • What frameworks and metrics can characterize regional markets and degree of market regulation?
  • How have markets performed across different criteria since restructuring?
  • How can policy levers be employed to remove barriers in each type of market to facilitate policy goals? 
  • Are there barriers to cleaner and more efficient generation given cost of capital differences?  

Electricity Finance 

  • How sensitive are costs to inputs (commodity prices, construction costs, technology costs)?
  • How do costs change under alternate financial scenarios (interest/debt/capital)?
  • What are the end user cost distributions under alternate DG/centralized scenarios?

Electricity Valuation 

  • How are uncertainty and risk taken into account under electricity valuation practices?
  • What value streams do electricity technologies provide to the system that are or are not monetized (and to which stakeholders do they accrue)? 
  • Do grid operators and policymakers manage tradeoffs among value streams?

Jurisdiction and Regulations

  • How did existing jurisdictional boundaries and policies evolve? What are the authorities for oversight of the electricity system? What are the responsibilities vested at each level?
  • What policy levers that exist at each level that may be challenged by the growing blurring of jurisdictional lines?
  • Distribution-level planning is becoming increasingly important: DER requires utility planners to achieve better integration of transmission planning and distribution planning and coordination between the Feds and the states.  How do wholesale and retail markets complement each other (from a jurisdictional perspective)? 

Here is the schedule for public input meetings. You can visit the QER website for additional details.

Boston, Massachusetts–April 15, 2016

Salt Lake City, Utah–April 25, 2016

Des Moines, Iowa–May 6, 2016

Los Angeles, California–May 10, 2016

Austin, Texas (Date TBD)

Atlanta, Georgia (Date TBD)

All comments can be submitted here up to July 1, 2016. 

Vice President Joe Biden recently spoke in Philadelphia to announce the release of the Quadrennial Energy Review (QER). According to a White House fact sheet, “the QER is envisioned as a focused, actionable document designed  to  provide  policymakers, industry, investors, and other stakeholders with unbiased data and analysis on energy challenges, needs, requirements, and barriers that will inform a range of policy options, including legislation.” The first installment of the QER examines how to modernize our nation’s energy infrastructure and is primarily focused on energy transmission, storage, and distribution (TS&D), the networks of pipelines, wires, storage, waterways and railroads. Each chapter provides recommendations to improve or remedy the issues discussed. At 347 pages, the QER provides an in-depth overview of the energy issues impacting our nation. If you are not interested in all of the topics or simply want to save some memory space, the Review’s homepage provides an individual PDF of each chapter. Here is a listing of the chapters:

Ensuring the Resilience, Reliability, Safety, and Security of TS&D Infrastructure

Modernizing the Electric Grid

Modernizing U.S. Energy Security Infrastructures in a Changing Global Marketplace

Improving Shared Transport Infrastructures

Integrating North American Energy Markets

Addressing Environmental Aspects of TS&D Infrastructure

Enhancing Employment and Workforce Training

Siting and Permitting of TS&D Infrastructure 

After a brief hiatus, Smart Grid Legal News is back! So many issues and not enough time or space so I thought I would start with the basics. I recently had the pleasure of meeting Christine Hertzog, managing director of Smart Grid Library, to discuss Smart Grid Dictionary, now it its sixth edition. At 466 pages, Smart Grid Dictionary covers acronyms and terms that are not just smart grid related but industry related. If you are new to the industry, the book will quickly become a well-worn staple. Veterans might find it useful to zero in on terms you might gloss over. Like most good ideas, Smart Grid Dictionary was created out of necessity. Trying to navigate an industry riddled with acronyms can be challenging. So for her own use, Christine began keeping a list of terms she hears often and soon Smart Grid Dictionary was born. Perusing through the dictionary, some of the terms that I take for granted, like classes of service or rate case, made me smile as I thought about how they could be confusing to those not enmeshed in this regulatory world. Below is a random sample of terms found in the Smart Grid Dictionary:

ADA (Advanced Distribution Automation)
A collection of intelligent sensors, remote controllers and bi-directional communications to manage distribution grids – covering substations to AMI assets.

Classes of service
A class or group of customers with similar characteristics that have a common rate for electric service. Some common classifications are residential, commercial, industrial and transportation.

Electric industry restructuring
The reconfiguration of vertically integrated electric utilities into markets with competing sellers, allowing customers to choose their suppliers but still receive delivery over the power lines of the local utility. Generation is now generally competitive, transmission is regulated by FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) and distribution falls under state jurisdictions.

ICAP (Installed Capacity)
A monthly market run by an ISO (Independent System Operator) that provides generators compensation for locating units in specific regions based on the net capacity the unit provides to the market after accounting for forced outages at the unit.

IEEE 2030.5
This standard incorporates Smart Energy Profile (SEP) 2.0. It defines application message exchange mechanisms, the exact messages exchanged and the security features used to protect the application messages. This enables utility management of the end user energy environment, including demand response, load control, and time of day pricing among other functions.

This week the state of New Jersey took an innovative step in its continuing quest to remain Stronger than the Storm. The N.J. Board of Public Utilities (“BPU”) approved Docket No. QO14060626, a subrecipient agreement with the N.J. Economic Development Authority (“EDA”) to work jointly in the establishment and operation of the Energy Resilience Bank (“ERB”). The EDA and BPU also announced the hiring of staff to fill two ERB leadership positions. Utilizing $200 million through New Jersey’s second Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery allocation, the ERB will support the development of distributed energy resources at critical facilities throughout the state with a primary goal of improving resiliency.

Superstorm Sandy caused extensive damage to New Jersey’s energy infrastructure, disrupting delivery of electricity, petroleum and natural gas to consumers across the state, and leaving an estimated five million residents without electricity. Distributed energy resources, including combined heat and power (CHP), fuel cells (FC) and off-grid solar inverters with battery storage, allowed some critical facilities, such as hospitals, wastewater treatment plants and universities, to remain operational while the electric grid was down. The launch of the ERB will enable many more such facilities to remain operational during future outages. In addition to providing resilience, the benefits of distributed energy resources also include lower and stable energy costs, a cleaner environment through reduced emissions, and increased overall efficiency.

BPU President Dianne Solomon said, “Increasing energy resilience, whether through the Energy Resilience Bank, the BPU-approved resiliency improvement measures implemented by utility companies or NJ’s Clean Energy Program, will minimize the potential impacts of future widespread power outages due to major storms like Superstorm Sandy.”

Governor Christie’s press release says the Energy Resilience Bank is the first of its kind in the nation to focus on resilience.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) held a joint meeting on Wednesday, May 28, 2014, at NRC headquarters. Most of the meeting was open to the public and concluded with a tour of NRC’s new control center. Commissioners from both agencies participated. Speaking on the topic of Grid Reliability, Markets and Extended Loss of All Alternating Current Power were:

  • Mr. Burgess, NERC – 2014 State of Reliability Report
  • Mr. Quinn, FERC – Market Dynamics that May Affect the Financial Viability of Nuclear Power Plants
  • Mr. Smith, NRC – Nuclear Power Plants – License Renewals and Projections of New Units, Extended Loss of All AC Power Mitigation Strategies – Order Implementation and the Scope of the Rulemaking Activity

With EPA rulings, plant closures, polar vortexes as well as cyber and physical security issues, 2013 was a rough year. Despite the challenges, the first key finding from Mr. Burgess’ presentation is that the bulk power system has a sustained high performance level. This highlights the strength of the grid. You can read the transcript and presentations on NRC’s website.

Camps have changed a lot since my childhood days of learning to swim at the Y. Somewhere between the increased competition for college admission and the universities’ quest to monetize all that empty space during the summer, parents have started spending a lot of money for “enrichment.” Admittedly, I have fallen prey. Recently, I sat down with my 10th grader to finalize his summer plans. I was amazed at his options. There are camps pre-college programs for all of his hobbies and every interest he didn’t know he had! One in particular caught my eye – Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has a Smart Grid Camp Pre-College Program! In this week-long program, students conduct a market experiment to learn about electricity pricing. Using a simulation tool, they will explore how the grid responds to loss of equipment, extreme power demands and other problems that might lead to blackouts. Students learn how the electric grid is being adapted to incorporate renewable sources of energy such as solar arrays and wind turbine farms. Working with RPI faculty and graduate students, high schoolers will learn about computer networks, cyber security and even tour power grid manufacturing or control facilities. Wow! This description is certainly deserving of the pre-college label. Unfortunately I will not be able to provide you with insider details. My interest in the smart grid has not rubbed off on my son. He selected a Gaming Academy and was not persuaded when I pointed out you need energy to power those games he will be designing.

Rensselaer also offers a Smart Lighting – Smart Power – Smart Systems Pre-College Program. It introduces high school students to lighting, power and sensor technologies and how they can be integrated into real world, sustainable and well-engineered Smart Systems. Students will be engaged in hands-on activities using the fundamentals of electronics and photonics to engineer solutions that address today’s social and environmental challenges. They will interact with engineers and scientists and participate in guided tours of high-tech manufacturing and/or research facilities. (Applications accepted until full.)

There are a variety of energy camps and pre-college programs across the country; some start as early as 3rd grade. This is good news. Optimizing the grid will require energy literacy. Like other transformations, children often lead the way. While it will not help with immediate needs, utilities should find developing the pipeline helpful to the looming talent shortage they face. Here’s a sampling of what is being offered:

  • Rethink Energy Florida hosts an Energy Ball to raise funds so that no kid is turned away from its Energy Camp for 3rd-6th graders. Campers make their own solar ovens.
  • The Touchstone Energy Camp in Indiana is just for 6th graders. A mixture of traditional camp, kids learn about electric distribution and go from rides in bucket trucks to horseback riding, swimming and archery.
  • The Green Energy Camp at the University of Washington-Seattle provides 6th-8th graders with a STEM approach to our energy future. Campers will build their own electricity-generating wind turbines and use math to measure the energy output of their designs and make them more efficient. (Waitlist available.)
  • The Shell Energy Venture Camp at LSU provides 9th-11th graders and teachers with the opportunity to learn about energy careers while having fun. They will perform hands-on experiments to explore the entire process of energy development; from how oil and natural gas are formed to the ways various types of energy are used. Campers will build a generator, a motor, a car, a windmill, a solar house and a robot! (Still accepting applications.)
  • University of Southern California/Chevron Frontiers of Energy Resources Summer Camp offers high school juniors and a few math and science teachers a preparatory, interactive training program focusing on various energy resources including fossil fuels, solar, biofuels, nuclear energy and information technologies for energy efficient operations
  • Also at USC, ExxonMobil sponsors the Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp providing activities, experiments, projects and field experiences for students entering 6th-8th grade in the fall of 2014. The camp promotes science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and supports historically underserved and underrepresented students with limited opportunities. Selected students attend this two week residential camp free of charge! (Deadline May 9, 2014.) This camp is offered at other schools throughout the US and includes mentoring from Dr. Bernard A. Harris, Jr., the first African-American to walk in space and camp founder.
  • Purdue University is home to the Duke Energy Academy. Purdue University has launched an Energy Academy to address the looming national crisis in the number and quality of students entering the STEM disciplines. Concerned that a decline in STEM-based education will impact our nation’s ability to lead the world in the energy sector, the Duke Energy Academy provides a week-long course in STEM-related energy topic areas of power generation, transportation, power transmission, energy efficiency and new research frontiers. After camp, students and teachers will be encouraged to launch energy clubs in their schools.
  • The Renewable Energy Camp at University of Wisconsin-Platteville is a week-long program that immerses 9th-12th graders in programming that provides insight into the dynamic field of renewable energy. Activities focus on practical applications of renewable energy in the field. Students will develop core knowledge of systems at the intersection of physics, chemistry, biology, materials science, electrical and mechanical engineering and agriculture. (Registration is currently open.)
  • Skyline College in San Bruno, California provides high school juniors and seniors an opportunity to earn two units of college credit for free at its Green Energy Camp. Students will learn valuable marketing and business skills as well as an overview of solar and energy efficiency products and services. The camp is part of the Energy Systems Technology Management program.

I am impressed. I can’t recall specifics about my high school summers but I am pretty sure I did not do anything nearly as academic. This list is not exhaustive. Next year I plan to do a similar post earlier in the year, ahead of application deadlines. However, thanks to DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, no one has to be left out this year. Parents and teachers can create their own energy camp experience utilizing this lesson plan. There are so many energy related camps and pre-college opportunities, I am confident we will have a powerful future.

Utilities and generators will find this recent decision by the Minnesota District Court interesting because the issues are similar to energy and environmental laws in other states. The plaintiffs include the State of North Dakota, the Industrial Commission of North Dakota, the Lignite Energy Council, Basin Electric Power Cooperative, the North American Coal Corporation, Great Northern Properties Limited Partnership, Missouri Basin Municipal Power Agency d/b/a Missouri River Energy Services, and Minnkota Power Cooperative, Inc. They filed suit against the Commissioners of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission and the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Commerce alleging that Minn. Stat. § 216H.03 violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution (Count I), the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution because the statute is preempted by the Clean Air Act and the Federal Power Act (Counts II and III, respectively), the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the U.S. Constitution (Count IV), and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (Count VI).

The statute at issue is Minnesota’s Next Generation Energy Act (“NGEA”). It establishes energy and environmental standards related to carbon dioxide emissions and seeks to limit increases in “statewide power sector carbon dioxide emissions,” stating:

Unless preempted by federal law, until a comprehensive and enforceable state law or rule pertaining to greenhouse gases that directly limits and substantially reduces, over time, statewide power sector carbon dioxide emissions is enacted and in effect, … no person shall:

  1. construct within the state a new large energy facility that would contribute to statewide power sector carbon dioxide emissions;
  2. import or commit to import from outside the state power from a new large energy facility that would contribute to statewide power sector carbon dioxide emissions; or
  3. enter into a new long-term power purchase agreement that would increase statewide power sector carbon dioxide emissions. For purposes of this section, a long-term power purchase agreement means an agreement to purchase 50 megawatts of capacity or more for a term exceeding five years.

In finding the law unconstitutional the Court emphasized that neither the parties, nor the Court, dispute that carbon dioxide emissions are a problem that this country needs to address.

The question here is not the environmental issue. The question is whether the Minnesota Legislature has the power, under the U.S. Constitution, to address that issue through the means articulated in Minn. Stat. § 216H.03. Because the Court finds that Minn. Stat. § 216H.03, subd. 3(2)–(3), violates the dormant Commerce Clause, the answer to that question is ‘no.’

Decision, Page 26

Providing me with flashbacks to first year Con Law, the court defines the dormant Commerce Clause as the negative implication of the Commerce Clause. States may not enact laws that discriminate against or unduly burden interstate commerce. The court then explained the three levels of analysis under the dormant Commerce Clause.

  • First, a state statute that has “an ‘extraterritorial reach,’ that is, … the statute has the practical effect of controlling conduct beyond the boundaries of the state,” is per se invalid. Cotto Waxo Co., 46 F.3d at 793 (citing Healy v. Beer Inst., Inc., 491 U.S. 324, 336 (1989)).
  • Second, a state statute that is discriminatory on its face, in practical effect, or in purpose is subject to strict scrutiny. Id. (citations omitted).
  • Third, a state statute that is not discriminatory, but indirectly burdens interstate commerce, is evaluated under the balancing test set forth in Pike v. Bruce Church, Inc., 397 U.S. 137, 142 (1970).

If you think this is not smart grid related think again. The court took the time to explain the unique nature of electricity, pointing out it is different from tangible products. Electricity cannot be shipped directly from Point A to Point B and MISO, the RTO for the utilities in this case, does not match buyers to sellers. Once electricity enters the grid, it is indistinguishable from the rest of the electricity in the grid. A North Dakota generation-and-transmission cooperative cannot ensure that the coal-generated electricity that it injects into the MISO grid is used only to serve its North Dakota members and not its Minnesota members. Consequentially, in order to ensure compliance with Minn. Stat. § 216H.03, subd. 3(2)– (3), out-of-state parties must conduct their out-of-state business according to Minnesota’s terms—i.e., engaging in no transactions involving power or capacity that would contribute to or increase Minnesota’s statewide power sector carbon dioxide emissions. This is the “paradigm” of extraterritorial legislation according to the court. Most likely there will be an appeal. Given the increase in interconnections and the growing RTO markets, this case will be watched by many.