09/21/2019 - Regulatory Tracker

Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA)

by Ari Peskoe

Click here to return to EELP’s Regulatory Tracker. You can also find resources on the Biden administration on our Environmental Governance page. If you’re a reporter and would like to speak with an expert on this rule, please email us.

Why it Matters

PURPA is the only federal law that requires electric utilities to purchase renewable energy. Enacted in 1978 and significantly amended in 2005, section 210 of the statute instructs the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to promulgate rules that require utilities purchase energy from renewable generators smaller than 80 megawatts and cogenerators that generate electricity as a byproduct of an industrial process. Utilities purchase energy at a price equal to the cost it would incur, but for the purchase of the energy from the PURPA qualifying facility (QF), to generate that energy on its own or purchase it from another source. States set this rate pursuant to FERC regulations.

Current Status

FERC finalized new PURPA regulations on July 16, 2020 that may result in less attractive rates for developers, but will give states more implementation flexibility. The Solar Energy Industries Association challenged the rule in federal court on January 15, 2021.

Timeline of Events

Obama Administration
Read more
June 29, 2016 FERC convened a technical conference to discuss PURPA rates and other implementation issues. Following the conference, FERC invited comments in docket No. AD16-16.
Trump Administration
Read more
September 19, 2019 FERC issues a notice of proposed rulemaking to revise its PURPA regulations. FERC proposes several changes to its regulations proscribing how states may calculate rates. While the proposed rules would provide states with more flexibility in how they implement the law, they would likely result in less attractive rates for developers in some states.

July 16, 2020 FERC issues its final rules that “largely adopt the proposal.” Dissenting in part from the order, Commissioner Glick writes that FERC’s new rules will do “little to encourage QF development.”

November 19, 2020 FERC issues its rehearing order, which generally affirms FERC’s final rules.

January 15, 2021 The Solar Energy Industries Association and numerous clean energy and environmental advocacy groups file petitions in the Ninth Circuit challenging FERC’s rules.