National Energy Policy: Priorities
The 1992 Energy Policy Act (EPA) intended to introduce competition into the wholesale market for electric power by providing transmission access. Events in California and in other parts of the country demonstrated that the benefits of competition have yet to be realized and have not yet reached consumers. To realize the vision set forth in the EPA, the following actions need to be taken:
1. Fair Transmission Access
In Order No. 888, the FERC attempted to formulate fair terms and conditions of access to the transmission grid for all users. However, the FERC failed to extend its jurisdiction to transmission services bundled together with retail sales. Consequently, distinct rules apply to different parties for use of the same transmission asset and such rules provide vertically integrated utilities the opportunity to use their transmission assets to disadvantage independent third party generators and wholesalers.
To achieve robust competition in wholesale power markets, the FERC must actively exercise jurisdiction over all aspects of electricity transmission and interstate commerce and place all uses of the grid under the same rates, terms and conditions. Moreover, FERC jurisdiction must extend to the terms of access applicable to transmission systems owned and operated by non-FERC jurisdictional entities including Federal Power Marketing Associations (PMAs), states and municipalities.
To improve reliability, the FERC has encouraged utilities to combine transmission facilities into large Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs) and to assign the responsibility for operating RTOs to an independent management team. Properly structured RTOs can ease the movement of power between states and between users within a state, and will enhance reliability, commercial activities, and competition in the energy industry.
However, the FERC has refused to make RTO participation mandatory. This, coupled with the lack of non-discriminatory open access terms, has weakened the RTO initiative. Therefore, the Administration must encourage the FERC to approve only those RTOs with sufficient size and scope and with non-discriminatory terms and conditions for access and to require that all transmission owners participate in an RTO. Finally, the Administration should revise those tax provisions that prevent the transfer of assets to new, stand alone independent, for-profit transmission companies (Transcos).
2. Independent Energy Reliability Organizations
Governance of the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) is cumbersome and places new market entrants at a competitive disadvantage. There is a necessary role for FERC oversight of a new Independent Reliability Organization (IRO).
Legislation to establish a new IRO is required. However, the "consensus" reliability language in the proposed Murkowski bill is ineffective since it establishes an unsatisfactory procedure to resolve conflicts between the IRO and the various RTOs established by the FERC.
Legislation that permits the FERC to delegate authority to develop reliability standards and enforce those standards, establishes an appropriate funding mechanism, includes a limited States' savings clause and provides the IRO participants with anti-trust immunity will accomplish the shared goal of establishing an effective IRO.
3. Wholesale Market Price Caps or Cost-Based Wholesale Rates
The Administration should reject any attempt to re-regulate wholesale power markets by adopting price caps or returning to archaic methods of determining the cost-base of wholesale power. Price caps, even if imposed on a temporary basis, will be detrimental to power markets and will discourage private investment by significantly raising political risk. Similarly, a return to cost-based wholesale rates will be extremely difficult to implement and will effectively negate significant investments made by new market entrants made in reliance on the presence of deregulated wholesale power markets.
4. Interconnection Policy
Competitive generation (including Distributed Generation "DG") and wholesale power markets have been hindered by grid interconnection policies and procedures that restrict new entry. The lack of a uniform and effective interconnection policy creates uncertainty, delay and unnecessary costs in development of new generation capacity and DG technologies. To correct this problem, FERC must develop and enforce standardized, non-discriminatory interconnection procedures.
5. Federal Transmission and Generation Siting Policy
An efficient and reliable interstate wholesale market requires construction of new transmission and generation facilities. Siting and permitting problems have frustrated construction of new facilities. Consistent with rules for certification of natural gas facilities, granting condemnation rights to private parties that have obtained federal authorization to construct facilities can significantly reduce these problems. In addition, Federal Agencies and Tribunal Governments should streamline the regulatory process to enable expedited construction and efficient operation of energy infrastructure.
6. Demand Reduction Incentives
The Administration should mandate the creation of a regional demand exchange (implemented by mandatory RTOs) that would allow large consumers to post bids for the reduction of demand. If implemented expeditiously, such a mechanism can have an immediate impact in reducing demand this summer.
7. California Power Crisis
The political leadership in California has made limited progress in solving its power crisis. All of the above items would mitigate this crisis.
8. Natural Gas Supply Outlook
There are concerns that natural gas supplies may not be adequate to meet market demand. Yet all studies indicate that remaining economically recoverable resources in North America are ample for decades to come. These supplies can be further supplemented by imported liquified [sic] natural gas. This will allow natural gas to continue to provide an increasing share of the total energy needs to the U.S.