FERC upholds previous ruling, asks BPA for equitable cost-sharing plan
By Christina Williams
Sustainable Business Oregon editor
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a ruling Thursday that asks the Bonneville Power Administration to come up with a better plan for handling periods of power oversupply.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Thursday upheld its year-ago ruling that found that the Bonneville Power Administration was discriminating against wind power produces in its plan to require wind farms to power down during times of oversupply of power due to high water runoff.
In the ruling issued Thursday, FERC essentially said while BPA was doing better in its equitable handling of oversupply events, the administration still needs to come up a more fair cost-sharing plan for that protocol.
In March, BPA filed a plan with FERC to compensate wind energy operators with a partial reimbursement for of missed revenue. This week, FERC essentially sided with wind energy operators saying that plan wasn't exactly equitable and giving the administration 90 days to come up with something else.
FERC, however, fell short of demanding what renewable energy advocates are asking for: full open access transmission rules that would require treating all forms of energy the same.
"We are pleased that FERC has upheld its commitment to ensuring that all transmission providers in the Northwest abide by the same open access principals and non-discriminatory behavior," PacifiCorp officials said in a statement. "This ruling should help facilitate greater coordination and well-functioning energy markets in the West as the region works to ensure a long-term energy supply, integrate renewable resources at the lowest possible cost, and meet other goals."
The original complaint against BPA was filed to FERC in June 2011 by wind energy operators PacifiCorp, Iberdrola Renewables, NextEra Energy Resources, Invenergy Wind North America and Horizon Wind Energy. FERC's ruling last December found in favor of the companies and asked BPA to come up with a plan for handling oversupply — put simply, a time when excess water due to snowmelt overwhelms the grid with hydropower production.
"It's pretty good news," said Rachel Shimshak, executive director for the Renewable Northwest Project which has been representing the region's renewable energy providers in the issue, about Thursday's news. "This ruling stuck to the same theme that Bonneville should not be discriminating and they don't have it right just yet."
Shimshak said that Bonneville Power did a much better job handling the oversupply season this spring and summer. "And we'll continue to work together to create a system that's more flexible in general," Shimshak said.
Doug Johnson, spokesman for BPA, said the judgement was a mixed bag for the administration. While officials there are glad that FERC didn't reach beyond the oversupply issue, the request for a new cost-sharing plan is complicated by the fact that BPA is the middle of a rate case.
"We've got to reconcile (the new cost allocation plan) with our rate case," Johnson said.
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