Regulating the energy industry during COVID-19, PART I

This first article of a four-part series focuses on NARUC and FERC

TransmissionHub reached out to the country’s state regulators — as well as to the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) — about how they are adapting during the new coronavirus disease called COVID-19. TransmissionHub asked four questions, which are listed below, followed by each entity’s response. This first article of TransmissionHub’s four-part series focuses on FERC and NARUC. The second article of the series focuses on states in the West. Due to the large amount of responses received, the third and fourth articles in the series — focusing on the states in the South/Midwest and East/Mid-Atlantic — will be published the week of March 30, 2020.

For information on COVID-19, including the number of cases in the United States, please visit such sites as the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

TransmissionHub: What measures has the commission/association put in place to assist its members and staff in light of COVID-19?

NARUC: Regina Davis, director of Communications & Public Affairs with NARUC, on March 27 told TransmissionHub that a key action is the COVID State Response Tracker, developed by NARUC’s research arm, the National Regulatory Research Institute. The State Response Tracker and other resources can be found on NARUC’s website. Davis said that NARUC has also participated in industry briefings with industry associations across all utility sectors — electric, gas, water, and telecom. Davis noted that NARUC staff ensures that commissions, including committees, commissioners, and staff, are well-informed concerning COVID-19 as it relates to state regulators.

FERC: FERC spokesperson Craig Cano on March 26 told TransmissionHub that all commission employees capable of teleworking are authorized to do so. Commission staff remains available via email and phone, Cano said, adding that they are teleconferencing and are canceling or postponing in-person meetings. Employees who do not have portable duties and cannot telework have been placed on paid administrative leave, Cano said. The commission offices are closed to the public, he said.

TransmissionHub: How is the commission/association helping to inform the public of energy matters during this time?  

NARUC: Davis said that NARUC continues to use its normal methods of information dissemination — social media, press releases, biweekly newsletter, and its website.

FERC: Cano said that FERC has launched a new webpage with coronavirus-related information and updates, which can be accessed on FERC’s website.

TransmissionHub: In light of COVID-19, has there been a change in the amount of filings that are submitted to the commission for transmission/generation/distribution projects?

FERC: Cano noted, in part, that FERC has no jurisdiction over distribution, nor over the siting or construction of generation or transmission facilities – only over the rates, terms and conditions of wholesale power sales and transmission service.

TransmissionHub: Has the commission/association postponed public meetings for transmission/generation/distribution projects during this time or decided to hold any such meeting online?

NARUC: Davis noted that the Western Rate School, which was scheduled for May 10-15, has been cancelled, and that at this time, NARUC is still planning to hold its Summer Policy Summit in Boston, July 19-22. She added, “However, we will continue to evaluate the status of the pandemic through the months of April and May to determine if our meeting plans will need to be updated.” Davis said that regional affiliate meetings cancelled or postponed include the Western Conference of Public Service Commissioners — moved from May 17-20 to Aug. 2-5 — and the New England Conference of Public Utilities Commissioners — May 31-June 3 symposium cancelled.

FERC: Cano noted that FERC’s webpage on the coronavirus has information regarding scheduled conferences and administrative hearings, among other things. FERC cancelled its March open meeting, and all of the matters that originally were scheduled for consideration at the meeting were voted out notationally, Cano said.