U.S. Senate Committee Hears Plans for Mandatory Electric Reliability

By Published On: May 19, 2006

The switch from a voluntary to a mandatory national electric reliability organization will allow for regional differences – as long as the new mandatory organization approves of them. At least that is the North American Electric Reliability Council’s plan. The organization has petitioned federal regulators to allow it to become the government’s electric reliability organization. “Regional variations would be permitted either when they are more stringent than federal regulations” or when geography warrants, Rick Sergel, North American Electric Reliability Council chief executive officer, told the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources May 15. California’s grid operator has expressed concern that the reliability organization as proposed puts the regulators and those being regulated in the same voting block. “This is patently unreasonable and illogical,” the California Independent System Operator stated in filings at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission May 4. The grid operator fears it will not have representation in the new organization. The emphasis on reliability is a result of a massive blackout in the Northeast in August 2003. Because of that, the change from a voluntary to a mandatory reliability organization was included in the 2005 Energy Policy Act. The organization is to be approved by FERC (Circuit, Nov. 4, 2005). However, not all generators are going willingly into the mandatory paradigm. “It must not adversely affect competitive markets,” said Trudy Harper, president of Tenaska Power Services, on behalf of the Electric Power Supply Association. “Ultimately, reliability will be the ability to plan, permit, and build new infrastructure.” Reliability is a goal, but an unclear one, said John Anderson, Electricity Consumers Resource Council chief executive officer. “I’m not saying it’s like porn, but customers will know what’s inappropriate when they see it.”

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