FERC Approves Changes to CAISO Interconnection Procedures; Next Queue Cluster Application Window Not Scheduled to Open Until 2023

On September 24, 2021, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued an order (176 FERC ¶ 61,207) approving tariff revisions to amend the California ISO’s (CAISO) interconnection procedures for its current queue cluster (Cluster 14).  The CAISO had requested changes to its interconnection procedures due to the massive increase in the number of interconnection requests it received this year—373 interconnection requests representing 150,000 megawatts of generating capacity, as compared to the 155 requests in 2020.  Prior to 2021, the average number of interconnection requests that the CAISO received each year over the past 10 years was 113.  The volume of interconnection requests in 2020 caused the CAISO to issue a market notice to delay the publication of Phase I interconnection study results by one month, pursuant to its tariff authority to extend the timing for providing study results under Sections 6.6 and 8.5 of its Generator Interconnection and Deliverability Allocation Procedures (GIDAP, Tariff Appendix DD).

Rather than rely on these tariff provisions to extend the study timelines for Cluster 14, however, the CAISO sought approval to establish extensions for various interconnection deadlines early in the process, to provide generators with advance notice of the timing for Cluster 14.  Per the approved tariff revisions, Cluster 14 deadlines will be extended as follows: Continue Reading

California ISO Survives the Summer with No Blackouts; Battery Energy Storage Beginning to Play Larger Role

The California ISO held its final Summer 2021 Readiness Update call on September 24.  As reported on the call, the California ISO managed to get through summer 2021 without any load-shedding events, in contrast to last summer, when load-shedding events occurred on two days in August.  The California ISO; California energy regulatory agencies, including the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and California Energy Commission (CEC); and the Governor’s office have spent considerable effort to avoid any outages for both this summer and summer 2022.  However, as California ISO Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Mark Rothleder explained, California experienced less extreme weather this summer, which helped the state avoid outages.  Although July was challenging, due to a West-wide heatwave and transmission impacted by the Bootleg Fire, August and September were more mild.  In 2020, load peaked at 47,121 megawatts (MW) on August 18, at 15:57.  In 2021, load peaked at 43,982 MW on September 8, at 17:50.  By comparison, the California ISO’s highest peak was 50,270 MW in 2006. Continue Reading

FERC Grants Limited Waiver to the CAISO to Immediately Interconnect Gas Turbines

In the wake of Governor Newsom’s July 30, 2021 Emergency Proclamation intended to mitigate the strain on the California energy grid, the California Department of Water Resources (CDWR) and the California Energy Commission have been reaching out to generation owners that could accommodate the addition of 30 MW gas turbines generators, an effort now referred to as the State Power Augmentation Project.  So far, two sites have been found:  Greenleaf 1 in Yuba City and Roseville Energy Park.  Each site will accommodate two turbines.  The units were supposed to come online in mid-September.

The two turbines at Roseville Energy Park will be interconnected through the Balancing Authority of Northern California and will participate in the California ISO’s (CAISO) energy imbalance market.  The two turbines at Greenleaf 1 will interconnect to the CAISO.  Under current tariff provisions, the CAISO can interconnect 50 MWs of the 60 MW total.  The Greenleaf 1 site has cogeneration facilities that are currently mothballed but still retain existing interconnection capacity of 49.2 MWs.  Because both the cogeneration facilities and the new gas turbines are gas-fired, there will be no change to the electrical characteristics, and the CAISO can therefore interconnect the two turbines under the repowering provisions of the tariff, but only up to 49.2 MWs. Continue Reading

CPUC Issues Net-Qualifying Capacity Values to Be Used for Mid-Term Reliability Procurement

In June 2021, the California Public Utilities Commission (Commission) issued its Mid-Term Reliability Procurement Decision, Decision (D.) 21-06-035, which directed load-serving entities subject to its jurisdiction (investor-owned utilities, community choice aggregators, and energy service providers) to procure at least 11,500 megawatts (MW) of net-qualifying capacity (NQC) for reliability for the period 2023 through 2026.  The decision established cumulative annual procurement requirements: 2,000 MW in 2023, 6,000 MW in 2024, 1,500 MW in 2025, and 2,000 in 2026.  The decision also states that the Commission expects all of the resources procured pursuant to that decision to be zero-emitting, unless they otherwise qualify under renewables portfolio standard eligibility requirements (biomass, for example). Continue Reading

California Energy Commission Adopts Expedited Siting Order for Energy Storage

The California Energy Commission (CEC) has continued its efforts to implement Governor Newsom’s July 30, 2021 Emergency Proclamation, which was intended to free up energy supply to meet demand during extreme heat events and wildfires, and to expedite the deployment of additional generation.

The Emergency Proclamation authorized the CEC, which is responsible for licensing thermal powerplants of 50 megawatts (MW) or more, to also license new, or expansions of, battery storage systems of 20 MW or more that are capable of discharging for at least two hours and will deliver net peak energy by October 31, 2022. Continue Reading

California ISO Holds Summer Readiness Update Call for August

On August 31, 2021, the California ISO held its August Summer Readiness Update Call.  During the month of August, the California ISO grid faired well, as temperatures were more mild, and any hot weather was localized, rather than extending across the western United States.

The California ISO also noted recent transparency improvements, including publication of a daily RA Capacity Trend and 7-Day Capacity Trend, as well a Daily Day-Ahead Summer Report and a monthly Summer Market Performance Report. Continue Reading

California Energy Commission Holds Workshop on Midterm Reliability; Finds No Reliability Need for Additional Gas Resources

On August 30, 2021, the California Energy Commission (CEC) held a workshop on its Midterm Reliability Analysis and Incremental Efficiency Improvements to Natural Gas Power Plants.  CEC Commissioners Gunda and Douglas were in attendance, as were California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Commissioners Rechtschaffen and Houck.  CEC staff covered midterm (2022-2026) capacity needs, and potential thermal capacity needs, as well as permitted and potential thermal capacity additions.  The workshop also included a panel discussing the deployment and performance of battery energy storage, including a discussion of the risks that could impact California’s planned reliance on large amounts of battery energy storage (over 14,000 MW by 2032 in the CPUC’s recently-released draft Preferred System Portfolio).

The CEC staff’s Midterm Reliability Analysis consisted of a loss of load expectation (LOLE) analysis of a variety of scenarios built around various assumed procurement portfolios, including the CPUC’s draft PSP and a scenario based upon procurement already ordered by the CPUC (1,505 MW NQC from D.19-11-016, and either 9,500 or 11,500 MW NQC from D.21-06-035).  The Analysis focused on the May through October time frame, not the entire year.  It also assumed that procured resources would show up.  Finally, it did not evaluate the impact of extreme weather events. Continue Reading

Minnesota Court of Appeals Handles Supreme Court Remand by Deferring to MPUC’s Findings on Gas Plant Need

As a follow up to our post here, the Minnesota Court of Appeals issued a decision on August 23 affirming the MPUC’s decisions related to the Nemadji Trail Energy Center natural gas plant (NTEC) that will be constructed in Superior, Wisconsin.  Applying a deferential standard of review, the Court analyzed the appeal (on remand from the Minnesota Supreme Court) and evidence under the MPUC’s novel standard for addressing affiliated interest agreements related to power plant construction outside of Minnesota.

Specifically, the Court analyzed whether the record before the MPUC demonstrates both (i) a need for NTEC and (ii) that a fossil fueled generating resource is more appropriate on Minnesota Power’s system than a renewable generating resource.

The Court determined that, viewed in its entirety, there was substantial record evidence supporting Minnesota Power’s need for NTEC, including testimony and extensive modeling from Minnesota Power and the Minnesota Department of Commerce – Division of Energy Resources (DOC-DER).  The Court found that the record as a whole “reveals ample evidence” that NTEC is a reasonable choice to meet forecasted demand, is cost effective (even when considering environmental costs under Minn. Stat. § 216B.2422 subd. 3), and is better than various renewable sources that could expose Minnesota Power’s ratepayers to market price fluctuations.

Leveraging its findings on market price risk, the Court went on to find that the renewable preference in Minn. Stat. § 216B.2422 subd. 4 was overcome by testimony from Minnesota Power and the DOC-DER “showing that the transition away from coal and toward intermittent renewable resources impairs reliability and could increase reliance on energy markets, thereby increasing costs.”  In so doing, the Court summarized the MPUC’s application of the public interest standard in Minn. Stat. 216B.2422 subd. 4 on the basis of cost—finding “a wind or solar alternative is not in the public interest because the comprehensive costs for such resources are higher than those associated with NTEC.”

More to certainly come on this front in Minnesota, as the state wrestles with the best timing for meeting the 80% reduction by 2050 goal set forth in Minn. Stat. § 216H.02 and other energy policy provisions applicable to the MPUC and rate setting processes.

 

California Public Utilities Commission Ruling Seeks Comments on Preferred System Plan for 2022-2032

In docket R.20-05-003, its Integrated Resource Planning (IRP) proceeding, the California Public Utilities Commission is considering its preferred portfolio of new resources for the next ten years.  A lengthy administrative law judge ruling issued August 17, 2021 set out a suggested Preferred System Plan (PSP) for the proceeding, including a suggested resource portfolio through 2032, based on a greenhouse gas goal of 38 million metric tons.  As part of the Commission’s IRP process, all load-serving entities (LSEs) subject to the Commission’s jurisdiction (investor-owned utilities, community choice aggregators, and energy service providers) submit individual resource plans setting out the resources those LSEs plan to rely upon and procure over a ten-year planning horizon.  The LSEs submitted individual integrated resource plans in September 2020, for a planning horizon through 2030.

Once those plans were submitted, the Commission aggregated all of those plans and evaluated whether the aggregated plans meet the Commission’s reliability and greenhouse gas requirements.   Commission staff also worked with the California Energy Commission to include resources under existing contracts with publicly-owned utilities serving load within the California ISO, which are not under Commission jurisdiction.

Commission staff then made two additional adjustments to the aggregated portfolio.  First, staff added in the resource procurement ordered by the Commission in its June 2021 mid-term reliability decision (D.21-06-035), consisting of 11,500 MWs of net qualifying capacity.  Then, because the PSP will be transmitted to the California ISO to be used for the reliability and policy-driven base case scenario for the 2022-2023 transmission planning process, and that process also covers a ten-year planning horizon (through 2032), staff used the RESOLVE model to select additional resources for the 2031-2032 period.  This was necessary as LSE plans were only required to cover the period through 2030.

The Commission’s analysis showed that the aggregated portfolios, with the addition of the mid-term reliability decision procurement, generally met reliability and greenhouse gas goals, only requiring the procurement of an additional 286 MW of additional utility-scale solar to meet greenhouse gas emissions targets.  The ruling suggested that this scenario be adopted as the PSP and transmitted to the California ISO for the 2022-2023 transmission planning process.  The Commission staff also developed a number of other scenarios as alternate options for the PSP.

The proposed PSP includes a new resource buildout of 14,751 MWs of battery storage, 18,883 MWs of utility-scale solar, 3,553 MWs of wind, 1,500 MWs of out-of-state wind on new transmission, 1,708 MWs of offshore wind, and 1,000 MWs of pumped hydroelectric storage by 2032.  The proposed PSP will result in a portfolio that is 74% RPS-eligible and 87% greenhouse gas-free by 2032.

The ruling also poses numerous questions for parties to the proceeding, including questions about the need to accelerate the mid-term reliability procurement, and whether additional new fossil fuel-fired resources are required.  The Commission will hold a workshop on the ruling on September 1, 2021.  Comments on the ruling are due September 27, 2021, and reply comments are due October 11, 2021.

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Biden Administration Proposes Rollback of Trump Administration Migratory Bird Rule

This post was co-authored by Stoel Rives summer associate Lydia Heye.

In May, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“Service”) announced a proposed rule revoking the Trump administration’s final rule on incidental take under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (“MBTA”). In the January 7, 2021 final regulation, the Trump administration interpreted the MBTA’s take prohibition (the subject of a current split in federal circuit courts), excluding the “incidental” take of migratory birds from the scope of the MBTA’s take prohibition. The Service initially delayed the date the Trump final rule would go into effect but ultimately decided to propose revoking the rule entirely for the sake of transparency and efficiency. The Service’s proposed rule would give the Department of the Interior discretion to prosecute for the incidental take of migratory birds. However, without a replacement rule, the revocation of the Trump administration’s rule leaves room for unsettled and conflicting interpretations of the MBTA as it applies to incidental take, which has varied between administrations and has split the circuit courts for years.

The Trump administration’s MBTA regulations were subject to significant public scrutiny and legal challenges from various domestic and international stakeholders, but the rollback of the regulations brings renewed uncertainty for clients in the oil and gas, telecommunications, energy transmission, and renewable generation sectors.  Because there is not currently a permitting program for these clients to secure permits for take associated with their otherwise lawful activities, many of these clients are reasonably concerned that MBTA enforcement and prosecution may increase.  As such, this is a good time for clients to be reviewing and updating (as necessary) their internal migratory bird compliance programs.

 

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