Reliability efforts tied to Clean Power Plan will continue, NERC’s Cauley says

Despite the Supreme Court’s stay of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan (CPP), reliability planning will continue to address the move to cleaner generation resources because that movement is expected to continue, officials from NERC, independent system operators and regional entities said Feb. 15 at the winter committee meetings of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC).

“Our reliability work will continue no matter what” states do while the legal stay of the CPP is in place and the court appeal of the EPA final rule plays out, said Gerry Cauley, president and CEO of NERC.

NERC issued a report in January providing advice to states crafting CPP compliance plans and it will issue another report in April on the CPP because the work on it has been underway for quite some time, Cauley told NARUC’s electricity committee.

At the state level, regulators are unsure about the future of the CPP, but Commissioner Asim Haque of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio believes “the drive and desire for clean energy will go on,” he said in moderating the panel.

If the CPP is struck down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, some other federal regulation might be crafted, states could act on their own or there may be legislation from Congress, Haque said.

At NERC, Cauley said he realizes some states may halt work on grid planning around CPP compliance given the uncertainty, but “we’ll do the best with what we have.” NERC will update the reliability implications as it becomes clearer what the state strategies will be, he added.

At the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC), the stay should not significantly change its work or perspective because the region will continue to move towards cleaner resources, said Jim Robb, CEO of WECC.

Transmission is a key part of that move to cleaner resources in WECC since the three coastal states of California, Oregon and Washington have aggressive renewable energy targets but about 60% of the generation is coming from areas outside those three states, Robb noted.

WECC is benefitting from some work by its committees, Colorado State University and the Western Governor’s Association on looking at what different state air regulators were planning for CPP compliance and putting together mock scenarios, Robb said.  

“Our job as planners is to plan into an uncertain future,” said Clair Moeller, executive vice president of transmission and technology at the Midcontinent ISO.

It was not lost on MISO that 13 of the 15 states in its territory were challenging the CPP, so MISO has always been working around two dominant scenarios – one with the CPP going forward and one where it is halted, Moeller related. The grid operator has put together a report on the CPP compliance options for states and what the generation picture would look like if they choose a mass-based approach or a rate-based approach for CPP compliance plans, he said. 

In the Southeast, the SERC Reliability Corp. will conduct assessments of transmission infrastructure and the generation mix stemming from CPP compliance and complement the efforts of NERC, said Scott Henry, president and CEO of SERC.

PJM Interconnection (PJM) has been working with transmission planners and others on the reliability effects of CPP compliance, and there is value in that work no matter what happens in the courts, said Mike Kormos, executive vice president and chief operating officer at PJM.

“The work itself was never meant to predict the outcome of the Clean Power Plan,” but was to examine different scenarios and ensure grid reliability would not be diminished.

MISO is fortunate that the Organization of MISO States includes input from air regulatory agencies in the MISO territory and can help the grid operator address some of the issues involving CPP compliance, Moeller said.

The power grid is moving to smaller, less carbon-intense resources and to maintain reliability, it will have to be more flexible and operators need to understand the implications of the generation changes irrespective of the CPP outcome, Moeller said.

To that end, NERC in December 2015 issued a report addressing “essential reliability services” that will be needed with the move to more distributed energy resources, Cauley noted.