FERC, NARUC create joint federal-state task force to explore electric transmission issues

Published on June 21, 2021 by Chris Galford

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The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) joined forces last week to create a joint new federal-state task force charged with exploring electric transmission.

NARUC will nominate up to 10 state regulators to join the body, which will host publicly accessible meetings to identify barriers to the development of optimal transmission, along with solutions for overcoming such roadblocks. Members will also review existing FERC rules and regulations with an eye on reform, and discuss ways that states could use FERC-jurisdictional transmission planning processes and opportunities to advance policy goals, coordinate and ultimately advance regional transmission solutions.

“I’m pleased to announce we have established a joint @FERC + @NARUC task force to tackle the important topic of electric #transmission,” FERC Chairman Rich Glick said in a series of tweets following the announcement. “It is increasingly clear that interstate transmission will play a critical role in the transition to the clean energy future. We need additional #transmission capacity to provide access to remote resources, reduce congestion, & enhance reliability. But we can’t have an effective approach to transmission planning/cost allocation w/o input from state regulators & this task force will enable just that.”

These state regulators will also tackle ways to make the interconnection of new resources more efficient. To do so, they will utilize FERC-jurisdictional processes and seek new solutions to any further barriers found along the way. Such mechanisms will play a major role in the task force, particularly as it guarantees that transmission investment is cost-effective, transparent, and covered by appropriate oversight. Enhanced federal and state coordination on the issue will likely be a major discussion point.

“Our partnership with FERC on this task force presents a much-needed opportunity for state and federal regulators to work collaboratively on transmission issues that affect all stakeholders,” Paul Kjellander, NARUC president, said. “Our shared authority over how to plan and pay for transmission infrastructure and the rapid pace of the energy transition have made such collaboration an imperative for all of us.”

Another critical function of the body will be to ensure that any costs derived from transmission efforts are instituted efficiently, and no one is underserved. Given that regulators will, in many cases, be working from the ground up on planning and how to pay for new infrastructure, it could be a major opportunity for change.

The clean energy industry applauded task force efforts. The American Clean Power Association noted that more transmission is essential and stressed the need for coordination. Sean Gallagher, vice president of state and regulatory affairs for the Solar Energy Industries Association, echoed those sentiments and pledged SEIA to play an active role in future discussions with the task force.

“We commend FERC and NARUC for entering into a new partnership that will promote cross-state transmission planning,” Gallagher said. “The reality is that we are going to need to add hundreds of gigawatts of solar and energy storage capacity to reach President Biden’s 100% clean electricity goal. We must also find a way to connect this load to the grid and deliver it to customers that want access to solar and storage. Transmission is going to be a critical part of this process, and this new partnership promises to help overcome the regional planning challenges associated with building the transmission capacity we need to meet our goals.”