Last week, the Electricity Law Initiative filed comments in response to an inquiry by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) about our nation’s high-voltage interstate transmission infrastructure. FERC’s Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking requests public comment about the rules that govern development of new transmission lines and procedures for connecting new power generators to existing transmission networks. FERC’s inquiry could lead to a formal proposal and ultimately a final rule that would dictate to utilities and regional grid planners how they plan and pay for new transmission infrastructure.
The Electricity Law Initiative (ELI) commented on two topics. First, ELI argues that both of FERC’s planning reform proposals are consistent with federal law. FERC sought comments on whether it should require regional grid planners to 1) plan transmission expansion based on long-term generation trends and/or 2) implement a process aimed at unlocking location-constrained generation resources, such as wind and solar. The comment details the extensive authority that FERC has under the Federal Power Act to remedy utility conduct that is “unduly discriminatory,” situates FERC’s two proposals within that context, and explains how both proposals fit comfortably within FERC’s broad and flexible authority.
Second, ELI outlines how FERC could encourage utilities to invest in large-scale transmission projects. Over the past decades, utilities have increasingly invested in small projects within their retail service territories that FERC rules allow them to build with little oversight or accountability. ELI suggests that FERC scrutinize those small-scale projects and sketches how FERC should evaluate those utility investments.