Inside the Beltway: House Panel Notes Gas-Electric Integration Issues

By Published On: March 22, 2013

California’s been there and done that when it comes to integrating gas-fired electricity into the regional grid. The rest of the nation is facing the problem as more of the country switches from coal-fired to gas-fired power, according to a March 19 House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Energy & Power hearing. “The challenges are serious, very real, and somewhat urgent, especially in New England and the Midwest,” noted Federal Energy Regulatory Commission member Phil Moeller. “It’s an evolving electricity portfolio,” Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) said. He advised the government and regions to “avoid investments in infrastructure” that shore up the baseline fossil-fueled grid, and instead look to strategic investments that support the new, intermittent, renewables portfolio. Federal regulators were in the committee spotlight this week because both natural gas pipelines and transmission lines are FERC-regulated. While integrating gas and electricity is more a non-California issue, because it is regulated by the federal government, the California Independent System Operator is involved. In August 2012, federal regulators held regional conferences, including in the West, on scheduling issues to keep the grid from wavering due to increasing gas-produced electricity. They also focused on how to coordinate practices between the gas and electric industries While the rest of the nation struggles with issues like building gas pipeline capacity to supply power plants, California struggles with aging pipelines that need replacement. In other parts of the country, gas industry and electric corporations are separate entities. In California, gas and electricity infrastructure upgrades are mostly addressed by investor-owned utilities—although other pipeline companies, such as El Paso, serve the state and would be affected by any new FERC integration rules.

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