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A Holiday Gift: A New Website to Explain the Mysteries of FERC!

Allison Clements

Posted December 18, 2013 in Curbing Pollution, Solving Global Warming, U.S. Law and Policy

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The Sustainable FERC Project is unveiling a new website today – www.sustainableFERC.org –to  inform the public and policymakers about the rules that govern the electric transmission grid that moves electricity across our nation and into our homes and businesses, and our efforts to increase the amount of clean, low-carbon energy powering the nation’s grid.

Understanding how the Federal Regulatory Commission or “FERC” operates may provide insight into what regulators do to try and ensure the lights come back on after a storm or to keep your electricity bill from skyrocketing. From an environmental perspective, understanding FERC’s role is critical to successful implementation of the policies necessary for a low-carbon future. Nearly all policies affecting electricity production and consumption – energy and efficiency incentives, low-carbon standards and environmental protection laws – by definition impact use of the transmission grid. FERC’s rules, which govern the operation of the grid, can either facilitate or create barriers to the success of these clean energy policies.

pic 1.jpgSuccessful integration of clean energy resources into the transmission system requires the harmonization of complex legal, technical and policy issues. The Sustainable FERC Project and its nearly two dozen partners dig deeply into these issues, and develop and advocate for reforms that will lead to a cleaner, more efficient transmission grid. The forums for our efforts include, primarily, FERC, and FERC-regulated regional grid operators and utilities.

The problem is that much of the time the conversations around the complex issues we tackle sound like they are happening in something other than plain English. Transmission “grid speak” really is its own language, and the regulators and stakeholders who talk that way often meet in hotel ballrooms and conference facilities in remote locations for hours on end, week after week, discussing mysterious topics like the minutiae of N-1-1 violations and capacity market design, which – believe it or not – may affect your utility bill and the reliability of the energy that powers your home.

That’s where www.sustainableFERC.org comes in. We have endeavored to translate key transmission grid concepts and issues into generally understandable English, along with communicating our perspective on the changes necessary to achieve the clean, reliable, and affordable electric transmission grid necessary to facilitate our clean energy goals.pic 2.png

The website highlights our coalition’s current top priorities:

  • Holding regional grid planners accountable to consider clean energy and environmental policies in their transmission grid planning, as required by the recent FERC rule Order 1000;
  • Requiring meaningful consideration of “non-transmission alternatives” in grid planning, markets and operations (such as promoting energy efficiency to cut electricity use);
  • Ensuring the continuing reliable integration of wind and solar power to the grid through reforms that accommodate renewable energy’s unique characteristics (such as best taking advantage of solar energy that is only produced during daylight hours); and
  • Preventing older, polluting power plants from limiting the expansion of cleaner energy resources.

The website is intended to support our work on these priorities by providing understandable issues analyses, an extensive library of relevant FERC rules and comments our coalition has filed with FERC and regional grid organizations, and blogs written by me, my colleague John Moore, and our colleagues at partner organizations. (Past blogs by John and me can be found here and here.) We hope that the website serves as a center point for reference and discussion on these critical – and sometimes esoteric – grid regulation issues.

Happy Holidays!

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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