FERC pushes through Order 1000, but timeline is unclear

Source: Hannah Northey, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, December 20, 2013

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission marked yet another milestone in implementing one of its largest and most controversial rules, Order 1000, but questions remain about just how long it will take to make the rule a reality.

Grid operators and utilities in October submitted plans to comply with the landmark rule, aimed at revamping the way new power lines are planned and paid for while considering policies like renewable portfolio standards.

FERC has now taken action on the first round of compliance filings, including 15 submitted plans from utilities and grid operations across the country. The agency’s focus in coming months will now turn to more granular interregional filings.

But the agency has no timeline for implementing the rule and is facing court challenges over its authority to approve the order.

Former FERC Chairman Jim Hoecker told the commission at the agency’s monthly meeting in Washington, D.C., that time is of the essence.

“Get it done in my lifetime, because I just want to see this,” said Hoecker, who is now general counsel of WIRES, a nonprofit group of transmission owners. “I just want to see this. I want to see these markets happen.”

One of the largest challenges will be linking compliance with the order to state regulations and plans in which Order 1000 is the basis for planning and building new transmission, Hoecker said.

“You’re going to make mistakes. It’s not going to be perfect, but you’ve got to get it done,” he said.

FERC today approved a proposal from Duke Energy Corp.’s subsidiaries in North Carolina to join the Southeastern Regional Transmission Planning process. Duke would join Southern Co., Georgia Transmission Corp. and MEAG Power in that group.

The commission also backed its earlier rejection of Duke’s suggestion that its North Carolina subsidiaries — in combination with its newly merged partner, Progress Energy Inc., and Alcoa Power Generating Inc. — constituted a “transmission planning region” (Greenwire, Feb. 21).

But the order is also facing court challenges.

In one case on cost allocation, a host of state regulators, utilities and industry groups lodged complaints with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, accusing FERC of overstepping its authority with Order 1000. FERC, on the other hand, has said it acted within its legal rights under the Federal Power Act to issue its 2011 ruling (Greenwire, Sept. 27). No oral argument has been scheduled in that case.

The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners also took aim at FERC’s implementation of Order 1000 this summer. NARUC’s board of directors adopted resolutions that found that FERC is failing to recognize “the decisive role states and cooperative regional planning processes play” and that the process could actually delay new lines from being built and properly paid for (Greenwire, July 26).