Energy Policy Update Blog

Energy powers society; society's choices shape energy policy. This blog is about our energy resources and the choices they present for society.

Recent Blog Posts

  • Calling electric grid resilience "a critical issue for the American people and for our economy and national security," U.S. energy regulators have extended to May 9, 2018, a deadline for public comment on the resilience of the nation's bulk power system in organized wholesale markets.The resilience of energy infrastructure is drawing increased public interest. Last year, U.S. Secretary of Energy proposed a rule for consideration by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission whose nominal focus was on incentivizing electric generator resilience... More
  • The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has warned that for at least two years, Russian government cyber actors have targeted government entities and multiple U.S. critical infrastructure sectors, including the energy, nuclear, commercial facilities, water, aviation, and critical manufacturing sectors.In a joint Technical Alert issued March 15, 2018 by the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the agencies warned of a "multi-stage intrusion campaign by Russian government cyber actors."... More
  • U.S. energy regulators have revised their policies, and will no longer allow master limited partnership (MLP) interstate natural gas and oil pipelines to recover an income tax allowance in their cost-of-service rates. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued its Revised Policy Statement on Treatment of Income Taxes following a 2016 federal court order addressing the topic.At issue is the Commission's policy on how MLP pipelines may set their cost-based rates. As described by the Commission, an MLP is a partnership... More
  • New Hampshire utility regulators have reopened a program offering a rebate to commercial and industrial electric customers who undertake qualifying solar energy projects, while reducing the size of the incentive and changing other program terms.To encourage commercial and industrial (C&I) customers to participate in solar photovoltaic and solar thermal energy projects, the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission first approved a solar rebate program in 2010. That program disburses funds from the state's Renewable Energy Fund to customers in exchange for... More
  • Federal utility regulators have taken a portfolio of actions in response to recent changes to U.S. tax law which reduced the tax rates applicable to many electric utilities and pipeline companies. Some rates for use of infrastructure will be reduced automatically, while regulators prompted others to explain why they should not be reduced to reflect the tax law changes. At the same time, regulators have opened an inquiry and proposed a rulemaking to address further aspects of the 2017 federal... More
  • The organization responsible for New England's wholesale electricity markets has announced the results of its twelfth annual forward capacity auction. According to grid operator ISO New England, Inc., its FCA 12 concluded with sufficient resources to meet electricity demand in 2021-2022, at the lowest price in five years.As in some (but not all) other organized electricity markets, New England's electricity market design includes a wholesale energy market as well as a forward capacity market. Operated by ISO New England, the... More
  • U.S. energy regulators have issued an order amending standard interconnection agreements to require new generators to install, maintain and operate a functioning governor or equivalent controls capable of primary frequency response as a precondition of interconnection. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's Order No. 842 also amended the pro forma interconnection agreements to include certain operating requirements including maximum droop and deadband parameters, and sustained response provisions.As described by the Commission, reliable operation of an alternating current grid requires maintaining system... More
  • The electric reliability organization responsible for the grid spanning much of North America has penalized an unidentified utility $2.7 million for its violations of mandatory reliability standards in connection with a data security breach. The penalty may be the largest fine to date associated with U.S. utility cybersecurity regulation.NERC, or the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, is charged by U.S. law with ensuring the reliability of the nation's bulk power system. NERC establishes reliability standards for the bulk electric... More
  • The owner of the closed Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station and the company proposing to buy and decommission the plant have announced a settlement with the state of Vermont and other interested parties. Under the settlement agreement and a related memorandum of understanding, proposed buyer NorthStar Group Services Inc. would provide increased financial assurances and a "comprehensive reporting protocol" and agreed to detailed standards for restoring the project site in the town of Vernon. If approved by regulators, the deal... More
  • In the midst of a regulatory inquiry into Maine water utilities' ability to prepare for and respond to water supply emergencies, agency staff have issued a preliminary recommendation intended to stimulate further discussion and comment -- which could ultimately lead to changes in how Maine regulates water utilities and water supply.2016 brought drought to much of Maine. According to a Notice of Inquiry issued by the Maine Public Utilities Commission that year, the drought posed special challenges for some of... More
  • The U.S. Department of the Interior has published an updated draft list of minerals considered critical to the nation's economic and national security. The move follows a presidential order calling for revised national strategies for managing critical mineral commodities.President Donald Trump issued Executive Order 13817 on December 20, 2017. Predicated on a finding that the United States "is heavily reliant on imports of certain mineral commodities that are vital to the Nation’s security and economic prosperity," the executive... More
  • A recently adopted federal regulation aimed at helping electric storage resources participate in wholesale electricity markets could unlock 7,000 megawatts of storage potential -- or up to 50,000 megawatts if all benefits can be captured through state and federal action -- according to a report by consulting firm The Brattle Group.The study is titled, “Getting to 50 GW? The Role of FERC Order 841, RTOs, States, and Utilities in Unlocking Storage’s Potential.” Released on February 22, 2018, the report concludes... More
  • U.S. hydropower regulators have proposed revoking a Michigan hydroelectric project's license under the Federal Power Act, following findings of violations of numerous license provisions, agency regulations and orders.At issue is the Edenville Hydroelectric Project, No. 10808, located on the Tittabawassee and Tobacco Rivers by Wixom Lake in Michigan. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission initially issued a license for the 4.8-megawatt Edenville project in 1998. That license was eventually transferred to a company named Boyce Hydro Power, LLC.According to public records... More
  • Combining old and new, a recently built hydropower project in Connecticut is demonstrating the capability of a modern turbine design based on ancient screw-like technology -- while using commercial and regulatory structures including a virtual net metering power purchase agreement and green bond financing.At issue is the Hanover Pond Dam Hydroelectric Project, developed by New England Hydropower Company, LLC. Originally described in a 2013 application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a preliminary permit and the Commission's subsequent order... More
  • A technical report by U.S. electricity regulatory staff assesses the potential reliability issues and likely benefits to the bulk power system resulting from an increased penetration of distributed energy resources. According to the report, increasing penetration of distributed energy resources may bring several associated reliability benefits to the bulk power system -- or could cause reliability concerns, if the resources are not properly accounted for.Distributed energy resources, or DERs, have no single definition -- but they are generally conceived of... More