Power Regulation

Bulk System Definition Revised

By Todd H. Cunningham | ECT Staff Writer Published: March 15th, 2012

As directed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the nation’s grid reliability watchdog has drafted a revised definition of the bulk electric system. If approved by FERC, the new definition could benefit electric cooperatives by limiting and clarifying the facilities to which reliability standards apply.

The grid watchdog’s revised bulk electric system definition would better identify facilities subject to reliability standards. (Photo By: TebNad)

The grid watchdog’s revised bulk electric system definition would better identify facilities subject to reliability standards. (Photo By: TebNad)

The North American Electric Reliability Corp. submitted the revised system definition, approved by the watchdog’s board of trustees and about 80 percent of industry stakeholders, for FERC approval on Jan. 25.

The NERC submittal includes a core definition setting a 100-kilovolt standard for inclusion in the bulk electric system; lines at or above this capacity would be considered part of the system, and therefore subject to its regulatory requirements.

The definition would specifically exclude facilities used for electricity distribution. It also addresses assets such as radial lines and local networks, among others.

If approved by FERC, the revised definition could benefit electric co-ops that own only radial transmission lines by potentially ending their required compliance with standards applicable to transmission owners.

“The bottom line is that these radial facilities have no impact on the bulk electric system,” said Barry Lawson, NRECA associate director of power delivery and reliability and vice chairman of NERC’s bulk electric system definition drafting team.

The proposed definition will help limit today’s uneven application of standards, Lawson added. “This should bring more clarity and consistency to standards applicability across the NERC regions.”

Currently, the decision on whether to include a facility as a bulk electric system component resides with the NERC regional entity, and there are discrepancies in the regions’ application of the current system definition.

“The intent of the new definition is to allow the vast majority of assets to be easily classified as belonging to the bulk electric system or not,” Lawson said.

Lawson indicated that the drafting team is beginning to work on a second phase of the bulk electric system definition project. The effort will focus on issues such as whether the 100-kv bright line and existing generation size thresholds are appropriate.

“We hope that FERC will address the revised bulk electric system definition in the next few months,” Lawson specified. “We’re targeting completion of the second-phase work in about 18 months.”

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