ERCOT argues against rehearing of Houston Import Project decision

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) told the Texas Public Utility Commission on Jan. 15 that an attempt by NRG Energy (NYSE: NRG) and Calpine (NYSE: CPN) to get the commission to rehear a Dec. 16 decision on the Houston Import Project just reiterates old arguments and doesn’t raise any new issues to consider.

The project involves planned grid upgrades around Houston that would allow import of power from outside the region, with NRG and Calpine saying that their near-Houston power generating capacity is unfairly disadvantaged by that ERCOT plan. The commission in December rejected the NRG/Calpine complaint, but both parties on Jan. 5 asked for rehearing.

“Complainants’ motion for rehearing reiterates procedural and substantive issues that have been previously considered and rejected by the Commission,” said ERCOT’s Jan. 15 response. “ERCOT requests that the Commission deny the motion for rehearing so that this critical reliability project may continue to move forward and ultimately be placed in service before the summer peak of 2018.”

As an administrative law judge (ALJ) and the commission have repeatedly stated, the scope of this docket is limited by PUC Rule 22.251 to whether, in its analysis and endorsement of the Houston Import Project (HIP), ERCOT violated any law that the commission has jurisdiction to administer, any order or rule of the commission, or any protocol or procedure adopted by ERCOT, wrote ERCOT. But NRG and Calpine have attempted to “shoehorn” their arguments about broader policy changes into the language currently found in the ERCOT Protocols and Planning Guide, it added.

Also filing a Jan. 15 joint response were CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric LLC, Cross Texas Transmission LLC, the City of Garland, Luminant Generation Co. LLC, Luminant Energy Co. LLC and Texas Industrial Energy Consumers. They wrote: “The Complainants’ Motion for Rehearing should be denied. The Commission’s Order, including the findings of fact and conclusions of law, does not prejudice the Complainants’ substantial rights. Specifically, the Commission’s Order: 1) does not violate any constitutional or statutory provision, 2) is not in excess of the Commission’s statutory authority, 3) was not made through any unlawful procedure, 4) is not affected by any error of law, 5) is reasonably supported by substantial evidence considering the reliable and probative evidence in the record as a whole, and 6) is not arbitrary or capricious or characterized by abuse of discretion or clearly unwarranted exercise of discretion.”

They added: “The record evidence shows that Houston has long relied on importing electricity to serve customers and maintain reliability. Further, the evidence demonstrates that load growth in the area, including industrial development along the Houston Ship Channel and the Texas Gulf Coast, dictates that Houston will ultimately need additional import capability, particularly in light of the geographic and siting limitations for new generation in the region. Every single case study in evidence shows overloads on the import paths into Houston by 2018. Complainants have raised no factual, legal, or other considerations that should cause the Commission to revisit its decision.”

Commission staff said in their own Jan. 15 brief: “The scope of this proceeding was extensively discussed and narrowly defined by the Commission to consider the limited question of whether during ERCOT’s independent review analysis and ultimate endorsement of the need for the Houston Import Project (HIP), ERCOT violated any law, order, rule, protocol or procedure. However, rather than only examining whether ERCOT complied with the existing Protocols, the Complainants have attempted to use this proceeding to go beyond this narrow scope to instead argue broader policy issues regarding how ERCOT should evaluate transmission projects.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.