On August 3, US President Obama and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the final Clean Power Plan (CPP or final rule), an ambitious regulation establishing state-specific standards for reduced carbon emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants. Promulgated under the EPA’s authority under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. § 7411(d), the regulation is the first-ever federal limitation on carbon emissions and marks the culmination of the Obama administration’s efforts to reduce emissions from power plants and to encourage renewable energy development, with the stated goal of lessening the impact of climate change.
The final rule is an updated version of a proposal released in June 2014 that called for a reduction in power plant carbon dioxide emissions of 30% below 2005 levels. The final rule targets a 32% cut in power plant carbon dioxide emissions (using 2005 as the baseline) by 2030. The final rule promises to have a significant impact on the electric power sector.
- The benefits of distributed generation
- The financial effect of distributed generation on utilities and customers
- Grid operation and security issues
- Jurisdictional and regulatory issues
On July 17, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) proposed to approve a new mandatory reliability standard that would require electric utilities to protect their transmission facilities and control centers against physical threats. Although FERC did not take issue with most of the language in the CIP-014-1 standard proposed By the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), FERC did express concern over the ability of utilities to identify their own critical facilities, even when that determination is subject to third-party review. To address that concern, FERC proposed to direct NERC to modify the standard so that FERC, or other appropriate federal agencies, could direct electric utilities to add additional facilities to their list of facilities that need physical security protections.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or the Commission) introduced a set of reforms on June 19 to its current market-based rate (MBR) program for wholesale sales of electric energy, capacity, and ancillary services. Much of the wholesale electricity delivered on the U.S. interstate power grid—especially in the Commission’s organized market regions in the Northeast and California—is sold under MBR regulation, in which the terms and conditions of sale are typically FERC-regulated, but the selling parties are not themselves subject to traditional utility cost-of-service ratemaking or regulatory (non-GAAP) accounting.
The Commission’s main goal in issuing its notice of proposed rulemaking (NOPR) is to streamline the application process and increase the transparency of information submitted to the Commission as part of the MBR program. If adopted, the changes could reduce some administrative burdens on industry participants while still preserving FERC’s regulatory jurisdiction and capability to supervise the market conduct and eligibility of MBR sellers. Overall, the changes exempt some participants from certain filing requirements while imposing additional requirements on other participants with MBR authority.
On June 19, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (the Commission) issued Opinion No. 531, which affirmed in part and denied in part an initial decision on the return on equity (ROE) for the public utility transmission-owning members of ISO New England (ISO-NE). In addition, the Commission announced a modification to its policies regarding ROE calculation for electric utilities.
Opinion No. 531 tentatively determined that the “just and reasonable base ROE” for the ISO-NE transmission owners would be 10.57%, which is halfway between the midpoint and the maximum point of a “zone of reasonableness” based on a range of cost-of-equity estimates. The Commission determined that the base ROE should be set above the midpoint because of the unusual capital market conditions and other indicators, including a review of state-approved ROEs, which demonstrate that simply setting the base ROE at the midpoint of the zone of reasonableness would be insufficient to attract capital for new investment in transmission.