Public comments made last week by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Chief of Staff Anthony Pugliese before the American Nuclear Society indicate that the agency is working with other federal government officials to identify power plants that are “absolutely critical” to the grid, E&E News reported. In particular, Mr. Pugliese revealed that the US Department of Energy and the National Security Council are coordinating with FERC to classify those generators that are vital to ensuring that critical infrastructure, such as hospitals and military bases, remain online and operational. The comments also reflect a related concern that many large gas-fired generators could pose reliability and resiliency risks, as the natural gas infrastructure supporting those plants could be susceptible to physical attacks or cyberattacks.
The comments by the chief of staff mark another instance when resiliency and energy security issues have taken center stage at FERC this year. In January, FERC terminated a proceeding that was initiated by Secretary of Energy Rick Perry’s proposed rule on bolstering grid reliability and resilience. Although FERC opted not to adopt the secretary’s recommendations, the commissioners acknowledged that there would be value in evaluating the resilience of the bulk power system. To do so, FERC initiated a new proceeding directing each Regional Transmission Operator (RTO) and Independent System Operator (ISO) to submit detailed information on various grid resiliency issues, including any challenges to the resilience of the bulk power system associated with transmission and distribution systems and electric generation assets. FERC has not yet acted in that proceeding and is likely still reviewing the voluminous record composed of the RTO/ISO responses and commentary from other industry stakeholders.