US electricity regulators may be further toward a consensus on transmission planning than many in the disparate space have forecast, though the devilish details of cost allocation remain a stumbling block.
Former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chief of staff Howard Shafferman, now a lawyer at Ballard Spahr, says in this video interview that although there is always room for misunderstanding, the basic principles of regional transmission planning are widely understood.
Shafferman has represented clients in New England, where early efforts at regional planning served as a test case for issues that have since risen to federal regulators, desperate to find ways to wring new efficiencies out of the transmission system in the US and promote new investment. FERC has issued its Order 1000 in an effort to regularize and systematically promote regional efforts on transmission planning, but the order remains under attack on Capitol Hill.
While New England’s experience “enunciated some cost allocation principles” that Shafferman says could work across the country, FERC commissioners will have to draw on all their extensive experience as former state public utility commissioners to navigate the evolving relationship between federal and state electricity market and planning guidelines.
Its all about who gets to keep the money, Shafferman said.
Efforts to change transmission investment planning are complicated by a new focus on the role demand-side resources, essentially cutting power use at times of high demand in return for compensation, can play. Smart meters allow for close monitoring of power usage and can easily quantify what customers are owed if they participate, but the shifts in usage complicate planning efforts at the very time the entire sector’s playbook is being rewritten.