UCS Files in Support of FERC’s Groundbreaking Transmission Rule

July 11, 2012 | 9:37 am
Ellen Vancko
Former contributor

On June 25, UCS joined the Conservation Law Foundation, Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council in filing a motion for leave to intervene in a court challenge by several utilities to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) groundbreaking Order No. 1000, Transmission Planning and Cost Allocation by Transmission Owning and Operating Public Utilities.

Order No. 1000 Will Improve the Transmission Planning Process

Photo: NREL

The new rule reforms how transmission owners and operators have to plan and allocate the costs of new transmission facilities.

The reforms will require that transmission planning is conducted regionally rather than on a utility-by-utility basis and that planning adequately incorporates new state and federal clean energy policies and requirements, including energy efficiency and renewable energy standards. It will encourage investments in efficient and cost-effective transmission solutions that will reduce the need for unneeded facilities while supporting the integration of emerging clean energy technologies.

According to FERC, Order No. 1000 is intended to achieve two primary objectives:

(1) Ensure that transmission planning processes at the regional level consider and evaluate, on a non-discriminatory basis, possible transmission alternatives and produce a transmission plan that can meet transmission needs more efficiently and cost-effectively; and

(2) Ensure that the costs of transmission solutions chosen to meet regional transmission needs are allocated fairly to those who receive benefits from them.

To achieve these objectives, Order No. 1000 requires that (1) each public utility transmission provider participate in a regional transmission planning process that produces a regional transmission plan; (2) provide that local and regional transmission planning processes must provide an opportunity to identify and evaluate transmission needs driven by public policy requirements established by state or federal laws or regulations; (3) improve coordination between neighboring transmission planning regions for new interregional transmission facilities; and (4) remove from Commission-approved tariffs and agreements a federal right of first refusal for incumbent utilities to build new transmission.

Order No. 1000 Will Level the Playing Field for Clean Energy

Through Order No. 1000, FERC has taken an important and necessary step forward in placing viable clean energy resources on an even footing with conventional generating resources by creating a more rational, transparent and inclusive transmission planning process that reflects new public policy objectives and encourages greater stakeholder involvement.

While more work is needed to level the playing field for low-carbon resources, the new transmission rule is critical to ensure that renewable and demand-side resources achieve parity with conventional resources like coal, natural gas and nuclear in state and regional transmission planning and cost allocation proceedings.

Fair treatment is necessary if we are to achieve the significant integration of renewable energy that the newly released National Renewable Energy Laboratories report shows us is possible. If the utilities’ challenge to Order No. 1000 is successful, our efforts to eliminate undue discrimination and advance the integration of clean and renewable energy will be significantly impaired.