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. 

This month the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) released its Clean Power Plan proposal. The Plan cuts carbon pollution from existing power plants, which according to the EPA is the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States. The Agency says the proposal will protect public health, move the United States toward a cleaner environment, fight climate change and continue to supply Americans with reliable and affordable power. Milestones and goals of the plan include:

  • Reduce carbon emission from the power sector to 30 percent below 2005 levels
  • Reduce electricity bills by approximately 8 percent by increasing energy efficiency and reducing demand in the electricity system.

The Clean Power Plan provides guidelines for states to develop plans to meet state-specific goals to reduce carbon pollution and gives them the flexibility to design a program that makes the most sense for their unique situations. States can choose the right mix of generation using diverse fuels, energy efficiency and demand-side management to meet the goals and their own needs. It allows them to work alone to develop individual plans or to work together with other states to develop multi-state plans. States better get busy because a year will fly by. Here are the proposed state plan dates:

June 30, 2016 – Initial plan or complete plan due
June 30, 2017 – Complete individual plan due if state is eligible for a one-year extension
June 30, 2018 – Complete multi‐state plan due if state is eligible for two-year extension (with progress report due June 30, 2017)

EPA is accepting comments and will hold four public hearings for the Clean Power Plan the week of July 28, 2014. The hearings will provide interested parties the opportunity to present data, views or arguments concerning the proposed action. The hearings will be held on: