Or so Secretary Rick Perry and the DOE would have us believe. Approximately three weeks ago, the DOE made its pitch to FERC and the energy industry that a lack of “resiliency” threatens the U.S. power grid. The responses are in. And the shock and bewilderment that immediately followed the release of the Secretary’s surprising proposal has, in some cases, turned into a Comedy Central Roast of Secretary Perry and this fanciful thing called grid “resiliency.” In just a matter of weeks, over 500 companies, individuals, industry groups, trade associations, and RTOs/ISOs have filed comments. And aside from the unsurprising positive responses from companies that would see financial benefits from the proposal, the response has been overwhelmingly negative.
Besides the usual suspects that one would expect to come out against a proposal to subsidize nuclear and coal facilities, the ISO/RTO Council argued against the proposal, stating bluntly that DOE’s proposal “would degrade the efficiency and effectiveness of existing organized wholesale markets, would provide improper incentives and disincentives to current and future market participants, would not promote the goals stated in the NOPR (i.e., enhancement of electric reliability and resilience), and would reverse the progress the Commission and the nation’s [RTOs] and [ISOs] have made in developing robust and reliable competitive markets.” The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners argued that the proposal could usurp state jurisdiction over generation and seeks to push through a significant change in policy without sufficient study. A group of former FERC Commissioners even joined together to question the proposal. And one individual shed formalities and offered that Secretary Perry had been correct when he once suggested that the DOE should be abolished—ouch.
Even among coal and nuclear interests, there was not uniform agreement on DOE’s grid policy. For example, Exelon (which is already set to receive subsidies from New York and Illinois for its nuclear facilities) attacked the PJM tariff and advocated for changes to RTO/ISO price formation, but did not actually recommend that the DOE’s proposal be adopted. In contrast, FirstEnergy (which has faced rejection from Ohio regarding nuclear subsidies) argued for the DOE proposal to be adopted largely as written.
While FERC followed DOE’s timeline for receiving comments on the proposal, it remains to be seen if FERC will issue a final order on DOE’s timeframe and what would be included in any such final order. Commissioner Powelson (who was previously Chairman of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission) has already said that FERC “will not destroy the marketplace” in ruling on DOE’s proposal—a statement that was endorsed by Commissioner LaFleur. Acting Chairman Chatterjee (who was previously an aide to Senator McConnell of Kentucky) has similarly stated that FERC will not “blow up the market.”
Reply comments are due on November 7, so stay tuned.