FERC, CFTC, and State Energy Law Developments

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued Order 569‑A on May 21, significantly revising the methodology used to analyze the base return on equity (ROE) of a public utility’s rates under the Federal Power Act. Because the order remains subject to further legal challenge and FERC had last revised its guidance on acceptable methodologies six months earlier in Order 569, uncertainty in acceptable methodologies may continue for some time.

FERC issued a proposal on May 21 to modify its policy regarding requests for waiver of public utility tariff provisions that are subject to FERC’s review and approval under the Federal Power Act and the Natural Gas Act.

In light of federal court opinions that have discussed FERC’s authority to change a filed rate, the Commission acknowledged that past orders approving tariff waivers have “drifted beyond the limits imposed by the filed rate doctrine” and the related rule against retroactive ratemaking.

In November 2019, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy issued Executive Order 92 increasing the state’s offshore wind generation goal from 3,500 MW by 2030 to 7,500 MW by 2035. To date, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) has approved only one 1,100 MW offshore wind project, but is expected to conduct additional solicitations in 2020 and 2022 and approve approximately 2,400 MW of additional offshore wind generation.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on December 19, 2019, directed PJM Interconnection to extend its minimum offer price rule (MOPR) from new natural gas–fired electric generators to also cover any generator that receives or is entitled to receive certain types of state subsidies. The rule aims at preserving competitive capacity auctions by preventing resources that receive subsidies from submitting bids that would otherwise be uneconomical—and therefore likely to “capture” a PJM capacity award based on a below-market capacity rate—if not for state support. The order means that existing or planned resources that expected to clear capacity markets with rates made economical by state subsidies will have to identify alternate strategies to generate revenue; so too will states seeking to promote the development or prevent the retirement of preferred but noncompetitive resources.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has had a busy year of significant decisions for employers, including one in Entergy Mississippi, addressing the supervisory status of certain electric utility transmission and distribution dispatchers and resulting ineligibility to vote in a union election. This important decision is discussed further in our recent edition of Labor & Employment NOW.

Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc. (Con Edison) and Orange and Rockland Utilities, Inc. (O&R) issued a draft joint Request for Proposals (RFP) on May 31 to competitively procure scheduling and dispatch rights from new energy storage projects. Through this initial solicitation, Con Edison and O&R are targeting at least 300 megawatts (MW) and 10 MW, respectively, of new energy storage facilities to meet the in-service deadline of December 31, 2022, set by the New York Public Service Commission (NYPSC) in its December 2018 Order (Storage Order) establishing New York’s three gigawatt (GW) energy storage deployment goal.

Both utilities will accept bids only for new storage projects sized over five MW and connected to the transmission or distribution system that can directly participate in New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) markets and provide distribution benefits, if applicable. These front-of-meter systems must be able to discharge for at least four hours 100 to 350 times per year, have at least 85% roundtrip efficiency, and maintain 98% availability for dispatch each contract year.

FERC issued a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) on March 21 seeking stakeholder comment on the scope and implementation of its electric transmission infrastructure development incentives regulations and policy. The NOI seeks answers to whether and how FERC should update its rules and policies in this area through more than 100 questions organized into four broad categories:

  • FERC’s incentive policies and how it should approach evaluating applicants’ requests for transmission development incentives, including its Return on Equity (ROE) adder policy
  • What expected benefits or project characteristics warrant incentives, including whether the Commission should consider reliability benefits, economic efficiency benefits, security, or resilience in that determination
  • Whether existing incentives, including the ROE adder, remain relevant and appropriate today
  • Whether particular types of infrastructure development incentives should automatically sunset, and under what certain circumstances that should happen

As we reported in December 2018, to jumpstart the energy storage market as envisioned by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, the New York Public Service Commission (NYPSC) issued an order establishing an aggressive 3 GW energy storage goal by 2030, with an interim target of 1.5 GW by 2025, and directing investor-owned electric utilities (IOUs) to engage in competitive procurements for energy storage. The IOUs will issue draft requests for proposals (RFPs) this summer following a stakeholder process that kicks off on March 29.

A recent advisory published by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s Division of Enforcement and comments of the division director have highlighted the CFTC’s attention toward investigating potential violations of the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA) that involve foreign corrupt practices. On March 6, CFTC Director of Enforcement James M. McDonald addressed this very issue in remarks before the ABA National Institute on White Collar Crime. At the same time, the division issued an Enforcement Advisory providing guidance on how the CFTC will treat instances of self-reporting and cooperation concerning CEA violations that also involve foreign corrupt practices.

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