Power Regulation

FERC Mulls Bulk Electric Definition

By Todd H. Cunningham | ECT Staff Writer Published: September 13th, 2012

NRECA has submitted a filing recommending that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approve its reliability watchdog’s proposal for a revised definition of the bulk electric system.

Federal regulators are considering approval of a revised definition of what facilities make up the nation’s bulk electric system. (Photo By: iStock)

Federal regulators are considering approval of a revised definition of what facilities make up the nation’s bulk electric system. (Photo By: iStock)

The revised definition, drafted by industry stakeholders and approved by the North American Electric Reliability Corp. in January, could benefit electric cooperatives by clarifying facilities to which reliability standards apply, NRECA’s Sept. 4 filing with FERC (Dockets RM12-6, RM12-7) said.

This would “positively affect NRECA members who have repeatedly asserted that certain facilities and equipment configurations cannot materially impact reliability” of the system, the association stated.

At the same time, it would enable NERC and its regional entities to better focus resources on entities and facilities that do have a material impact.

“The revised definition will provide a more clear and appropriate basis for determining which electric utilities, including electric cooperatives, will be subject to mandatory compliance with NERC reliability standards,” said Barry Lawson, NRECA associate director of power delivery and reliability

Lawson, who served as vice chairman of NERC’s bulk electric system definition drafting team, emphasized those reliability standards related to radial transmission and generation assets.

Key elements of NERC’s revised system definition, approved by its board and about 80 percent of industry stakeholders, include:

• Establishment of a core definition that encompasses all transmission, real power and reactive power facilities operated or connected at 100 kilovolts or greater;

• Elimination of the NERC regional entities’ discretion to define the system in their region without any oversight from the watchdog or from FERC; and

• Identification of specific facility configurations that are included in, or—like those used for electricity distribution—excluded from the bulk electric system definition.

The watchdog’s submittal removes widely held concerns, centering on subjectivity and regional variation, regarding the current regulatory regime, NRECA said.

“The sooner the commission can approve NERC’s modifications, the better,” it underscored, as this will trigger a comprehensive review of assets. The association termed timing—24 months, in most situations—“equally as important as acceptance of the NERC proposal.”

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