FERC announced on February 22 that it will open a new proceeding to examine the threats of climate change and extreme weather to electric reliability. The investigation will assess how grid operators prepare for and respond to extreme weather events, including, droughts, extreme cold, wildfires, hurricanes, and prolonged heat waves. The proceeding will include a technical conference with an opportunity for parties to submit comments in advance of that conference.
FERC, CFTC, and State Energy Law Developments
FERC issued a pair of orders terminating, or upholding the termination of, proceedings designed to evaluate the resiliency of the electric grid on February 18. Both proceedings arose from the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) controversial proposal directing the Commission in 2017 to consider market reforms that would benefit certain baseload generation resources.
A LawFlash prepared by our energy team discusses likely results of the Texas power outages and blackouts during the recent winter storm, which include federal and state investigations into the outages, federal investigations into commodity and futures price spikes during the storm, force majeure inquiries, and demands for corrective actions to ensure future reliability of the grid system.
On February 17, Texas Governor Greg Abbott took the extraordinary measure of directing the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) to restrict out-of-state exports of natural gas produced in Texas through February 21. Noting the unprecedented extreme weather events facing the state, Governor Abbott’s directive seeks to “ensure that any natural gas currently in Texas is not sent outside of Texas,” unless it is first offered for sale to in-state power generators. Governor Abbott “mandate[d] that all sourced natural gas be made available for sale to local power generation opportunities before leaving the state of Texas.”
Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) has issued a report analyzing the effects of renewable energy growth in the MISO region and concluding that the system can reliably accommodate a significant percentage of variable renewable resources.
The US Congress adopted extensive federal energy policies in the Energy Act of 2020 (Energy Act), which President Donald Trump signed into law on December 27 as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021.
At its December open meeting, FERC proposed to establish rules for incentive-based rate treatments for voluntary cybersecurity investments by a public utility.
The secretary of the US Department of Energy (DOE) issued an order on December 17 prohibiting electric utilities from installing equipment or components provided by Chinese companies in electric facilities serving designated “Critical Defense Facilities.” Relying on authority from Executive Order 13920 on Securing the United States Bulk-Power System, the order identified threats to the electric supply chain from China and concluded that prohibiting Chinese equipment in these sensitive facilities is necessary to respond to the Chinese government’s plans to undermine the bulk-power system.
Following significant pushback from the regulated community, FERC and NERC Staff jointly announced in a new white paper that filings and other submissions to FERC describing violations of cybersecurity reliability standards would be entirely nonpublic. Under the revised approach, all cybersecurity noncompliance information will be considered CEII and not disclosed in response to FOIA requests.
At its June 18 open meeting, FERC issued a notice of inquiry seeking public input on cybersecurity-related enhancements to the Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) reliability standards. In light of the constantly evolving nature of cybersecurity threats to the bulk power system, FERC is interested in determining whether the current CIP standards adequately address specific cyberrisk areas related to data security and cybersecurity incident detection, containment, and mitigation.