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FERC approves revised definition of 'bulk electric system'

From the December 21, 2012 issue of Public Power Daily

Originally published December 21, 2012

By Jeannine Anderson

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission yesterday issued a final rule revising the definition of the bulk electric system. The revisions, proposed by the North American Electric Reliability Corp., "should provide greater transparency and uniformity in defining the bulk electric system," the commission said in announcing the rule. APPA had urged the commission to adopt NERC's revised definition (see Public Power Daily, Sept. 6).

Revisions to the current definition remove language allowing for broad discretion across the reliability regions and establish a "bright-line" threshold that includes all facilities operated at or above 100 kilovolts.

The final rule establishes a process for seeking a FERC ruling on whether facilities otherwise included in the bulk power system are used in local distribution as set forth in the Federal Power Act. The starting point for this case-by-case analysis will be Order No. 888’s seven-factor test for determining whether a facility is a local distribution or transmission facility, the commission said. However, FERC said it will "consider other factors, based on the specific situation."

Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur said the rule is "a significant moment" in the commission's oversight of the electric grid. "I think the definition very carefully reflects the limits of our jurisdiction over reliability," she said.

The final rule will take effect 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register. 

In other action at FERC's Dec. 20 meeting, the commission denied rehearing in several dockets, reaffirming the final rule on integration of variable resources to require 15-minute scheduling; its prior order on Iberdrola v. BPAregarding compensation for curtailment of wind generation; and its order affirming that it can and will impose penalties for violation of reliability standards by the federal power marketing administrations. The commission also approved a final rule amending its regulations to provide it with access to the electronic tags, known as e-Tags, used in wholesale markets (see separate story, below).


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