FERC order fails to end discrimination against renewables

New grid connection and transmission rules issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) fail to ensure renewable energy plant operators in the US are not discriminated against, says the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

Rob Gramlich, AWEA’s Senior Vice President for Public Policy said: “We are concerned the rule does not go far enough in ending discriminatory practices and potentially provides a roadmap for imposing discriminatory integration costs on wind energy projects, both of which inflate consumers’ bills.”

The FERC order, issued last week, has the stated aim of reducing the discrimination faced by variable renewable energy resources when they connect to the power grid, and making the power grid work more efficiently for consumers. “Variable energy resources make up an increasing share of new capacity coming on-line,” FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff said. “This final rule eliminates undue burdens on these resources and will help transmission providers and their customers effectively manage the costs of integration.”

FERC got it “partially right” and has made some useful changes in leveling the playing field for renewable energy, said Gramlich, but “there is still much work to be done”.

The order, yet to be made fully available, takes “a small, but important, step” towards removing the practice of scheduling transmission lines and dispatching power plants at hourly intervals. Operating the system in this way, AWEA says, forces excessive use of expensive reserve generation capacity to accommodate all sources of intra-hour variability on the power system – variations chiefly from changes in electricity demand, but also from changes in the output of both conventional and renewable power plants.

FERC’s order now requires utilities to offer transmission scheduling at intervals of 15 minutes or faster. However it fails to enact a “requirement” for moving to such faster generator dispatch, which limits the usefulness of the scheduling improvement, according to AWEA.

Meantime, the final rule also requires the sharing of wind plant data with grid operators who will use it for wind energy forecasting. Improved forecasting and greater use by grid operators will improve the integration of wind energy and keep costs lower for consumers by reducing the need for reserves. “Wind plant owners are stepping up to the plate by making their data available for state-of-the-art wind energy forecasting, and FERC should be asking utilities to make even simpler grid operating reforms that can save consumers even more money,” Gramlich said.


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Energy infrastructure  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Wind power