A Picture is Worth a 1000 Pages of FERC Order No. 1000

by Carolyn Elefant on November 29, 2011

in FERC Order 1000

NEMA's Siting Transmission Corridors: Real Life Game of Chutes & Ladders

OK, so my headline isn’t entirely accurate: FERC Order No. 1000 weighs in at a svelte 682 pages and not 1000 as the title of this post would have you believe. Even so, even 682 pages is a lot of words.

So it’s a true feat of engineering that the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) managed to develop this incredible info-graphic depicting the entire transmission lifecycle, from plan to power line. The chart, intended to resemble the children’s game of Chutes & Ladders, begins with the transmission planning process, moves into cost allocation and FERC Incentive Rate Approval Process (now under review in a proposed Notice of Inquiry) and finishes up with the protracted siting process.

Of course, as NEMA points out in the accompanying text, the Chutes & Ladders analogy falls through because transmission siting is not a game. Thus, NEMA supports additional federal authority for siting similar to the DOE proposal which was tabled back in October.

Overall, the NEMA chart is highly accurate given its brevity (I’ve seen 25 page law firm summaries that aren’t as clear or correct). As far as I could tell, the only truly important factor omitted from the NEMA chart is the FERC Order No. 1000 directive for utilities to consider state and federal public policy in the transmission planning process.

The “planning” phase of the NEMA chart does include steps for consideration of transmission for reliability and cost effectiveness. After all, these are factors which have traditionally been taken into account in transmission planning. But under FERC Order No. 1000, the transmission planning process must account for any transmission needs motivated by state policies such as a Renewable Portfolio Standard. Inclusion of state and federal public policy considerations in transmission planning was hotly contested both in the original comments and on rehearing. As I’ve suggested previously, a broad public policy requirement, without further guidance, may inject additional uncertainty and delay into the transmission planning process – which could further slow the process.

In any event, my guess is that public policy considerations didn’t make the chart because NEMA chose not to reflect very recent FERC developments. Indeed, this makes sense because FERC’s order is subject to modification on rehearing – and after that, may be headed for the courts.

So kudos to NEMA for its excellent work that goes a long way towards making the transmission development process understandable to regulators, utilities, energy companies and other stakeholders. Would that we lawyers who may be eventually called upon to brief issues related to Order No. 1000 could be so brief.

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