How much does the design of America’s energy market affect the environment? More than one might expect.
Last week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the agency responsible for regulating the wholesale natural gas and electricity markets, issued a proposed policy statement designed to encourage pipeline operators to replace their leakiest equipment: compressor stations. Reciprocating compressors are an essential part of the nation’s gas delivery system. They help move natural gas through cross-country pipelines to utilities that then deliver the fuel to its end customer. A challenge, however, is that aging compressor stations are more likely to leak as they help pump the gas to its final destination, and hundreds of these units have not been updated since the 1940’s. These leak-prone units are one of the largest sources of methane emissions —a potent greenhouse gas that can also cause explosions in some cases.
The cost to replace just one “vintage” unit can be tens of millions of dollars — one reason pipeline operators have been slow to update this equipment. Fortunately, FERC’s new proposal would provide a pathway for pipelines operators to recover the significant cost of refitting their systems with modern, safer, and more efficient compressors. Read More
By: James T. B. Tripp, EDF Senior Counsel
America’s electricity industry – the single largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S. – is at the heart of some of the world’s biggest environmental challenges, especially climate change. Given this connection, you would think an agency called the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) would take into account the major environmental consequences of its policies, which fundamentally shape the U.S. power industry. Sadly, you would be wrong.
FERC is charged by law with ensuring wholesale rates and other critical aspects of the electricity industry, such as transmission practices, are “just and reasonable.” Yet FERC’s official policy is to exclude environmental considerations from its regulation of the industry. Why? FERC’s reasoning is based on a combination of questionable statutory interpretation and an approach to energy regulation that is stuck in the past. In fact, FERC’s statutory mandate over wholesale electricity sales and transmission dates back to the 1930s, long before scientists discovered climate change. Read More
Source: BranderGuard Flickr
Late last week, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed an important Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Order, giving the agency a big win and aiding in the promise of a cleaner, smarter, and more efficient power grid.
By upholding FERC’s Order 1000, the court confirmed what many think is common sense: Because the power grid crosses state and utility boundaries, a coordinated planning approach to electricity transmission (that is, moving electricity from one place to another) is more efficient and cost effective than multiple entities planning in isolation.
Order 1000 opens the door for two big electrical grid improvements. First, the order helps spur a more efficient planning process, meaning less waste and better coordination in our energy system. Second, the order allows greater opportunity for clean energy resources like demand response, energy efficiency, and renewables. It does this, in large part, by ensuring that state policies like renewable portfolio standards are taken into account. Relying on more clean energy resources will improve air quality and the health of millions of Americans now harmed by dangerous air pollution while advancing our country’s energy independence and economic growth. Read More
Source: CEB Blogs, executiveboard.com
Last month, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) announced it would seek rehearing of a recent US Court of Appeals decision, which changes how demand response providers are compensated in wholesale energy markets. The court’s decision was a setback for demand response, a clean energy resource used by utilities and electric grid operators that pays people to conserve energy during periods of peak or high demand.
Demand response balances stress on the electric grid by reducing demand for electricity, rather than increasing supply. This makes our grid more efficient, reduces harmful air emissions from fossil fuel plants, and keeps electricity prices lower. The court decision is significant because it invalidates FERC Order 745. This Order required that demand response be fairly valued in the wholesale energy market, allowing it to compete on a level playing field with more traditional electricity resources, like coal and natural gas. Read More
The Sustainable FERC Project, a coalition of environmental and clean energy organizations, launched its new website today: www.sustainableFERC.org. The site will inform the public and policymakers about the coalition’s efforts to increase the amount of clean, low-carbon energy powering the nation’s electric grid, which focus on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the regional entities regulated by FERC.
FERC is a federal agency whose activities include regulation of transmission and wholesale sales of electricity in interstate commerce. Working on behalf of its coalition partners, the Sustainable FERC Project develops and advocates for federal policies and regional implementation and practices that will give rise to a cleaner, more efficient energy system. The coalition’s top priorities include removing the barriers to getting clean energy on the transmission grid, maximizing the use of energy efficiency in planning and facilitating a transition to a cleaner energy future.
Source – Windpower Engineering Development
EDF’s work as a member of the Sustainable FERC Project coalition complements our own Smart Power Initiative, which is working, primarily through state-level advocacy, to change the trajectory of the U.S. electricity system to help avoid dangerous climate change through smart power policies and clean energy investments. The Smart Power Initiative focuses on ensuring that the right state policies are in place to allow for better integration of clean energy resources into the power grid.
Optimizing the environmental performance of the U.S. electric grid – which is sometimes called the “largest machine on the planet” – requires environmentally-sound policies and practices at all levels to drive system planning and operation. The new website (www.SustainableFERC.org) will feature issue analysis, coalition comments filed with FERC and regional grid organizations and links to blogs written by representatives from the coalition. It should become a go-to site for those wanting to deepen their understanding of environmentally-important smart grid developments in the federally-regulated portions of the U.S. electric system.
In the 1983 thriller WarGames, Matthew Broderick plays a teen-age computer geek who unknowingly signs onto a Pentagon computer while hacking into a toy company’s new computer game. Thinking that he’s simply playing a game called Global Thermonuclear Warfare, Broderick launches the game and nearly starts a nuclear war. The North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) will hold its own war game next month with a simulated attack on the U.S. power grid.
The drill, called GridEx II, will take place on November 13-14 of this year. The participants will include 65 utilities and eight regional transmission organizations, representing most of the nation’s electricity customers. The drill will test how well the electric utility industry and the grid itself respond to physical and cyber attacks.
A NERC Critical Infrastructure Protection Committee (CIPC) working group will begin the drill by sending participants a series of simulated physical and cyber attacks, climaxing in a national security emergency. Participants will then respond and interact with each other, just as they would in a real emergency. The simulation will last 36 hours, and the CIPC working group will evaluate the participants’ responses and provide feedback on how their actions impact the ongoing scenario. After the drill, the working group will analyze the results and prepare a report on lessons learned.