Grid Geeks Podcast S6 E3

Valuing the Resiliency of the Electric Grid

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As we mark the two-year anniversary of Hurricanes Harvey, Maria, & Irma, and with Hurricane Dorian having just ravaged the Caribbean and impacting the Southeast and Eastern Seaboard, the resilience of the electric grid is still a front-and-center conversation. Yet, in spite of the growing number of more severe natural disasters and man-made events impacting the electric grid, efforts to place a value on resilience are still relatively nascent. In this episode of Grid Geeks, I talk with two experts on the topic of resilience, Wilson Rickerson, Principal with Converge Strategies, and Jonathon Monken, Senior Director, System Resiliency and Strategic Coordination for PJM Interconnection. We explore some key questions: How is resilience defined? Does it make sense to ascribe a value to resilience? What methods and tools exist to determine that value? Which entities are ‘responsible’ for resilience of the electric grid? Is there sufficient coordination and communication among those entities? What existing resilience efforts provide useful models for others to learn from? 

Guest Bios

Wilson Rickerson is a Principal and co-founder of Converge Strategies, LLC, a consulting company focusing on the intersection of advanced energy and resilience. He works with a broad range of military, private sector, and government partners, and recently led a national study on the value of resilience for distributed energy in partnership with the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissions (NARUC). He has 18 years of experience working with governments, corporations, and nonprofits across 25 countries on energy and climate strategies. Prior to Converge Strategies, Wilson led Meister Consultants Group (MCG), where he served as CEO until 2016. Under his leadership, MCG supported energy and resilience projects with local, state, and international governments. He holds a Masters in Energy and Environmental Policy from the University of Delaware and a BA in International Relations from the College of William and Mary. He is a Policy Fellow with the Center for Climate and Security and an Expert with the Clean Energy Solutions Center.

Jonathon Monken is the Senior Director, System Resiliency and Strategic Coordination for PJM Interconnection. In this capacity, he works in the areas of business continuity, physical and cyber security, risk management and resilience planning for the world’s largest wholesale energy market. Most recently, Mr. Monken served as VP, U.S. Operations for the Electric Infrastructure Security (EIS) Council where he worked with government and industry to develop best practices and capabilities to improve the resilience of life support infrastructure systems to widespread, long-duration power outages, known as “Black Sky” events.Mr. Monken has broad ranging experience in the areas of defense, homeland security, public safety and emergency management.  During the past several years he pioneered programs for critical information sharing, public and private sector integration and large-scale exercise development and execution. Monken earned a Bachelor of Science Degree from the United States Military Academy at West Point, and holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.


The Value of Resilience for Distributed Energy Resources: An Overview of Current Analytical Practices (NARUC, prepared by Converge Strategies) 

Beyond the Fence Line: Strengthening Military Capabilities Through Energy Resilience Partnerships (Association of Defense Communities)

Grid Geeks Podcast S6 E2

Transportation Electrification

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The growing movement to electrify our transportation sector is beginning to reshape our economy, the environment and public health. The transportation sector now exceeds the electricity sector in terms of its overall contribution to greenhouse gas pollution, and the widespread adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) can reduce tailpipe emissions and clean up the air we breathe. But as we move to electrify vehicles, how do you get help people get over their range anxiety and make EVs more mainstream? What are states doing to lead the charge for EVs? How are federal actions impacting EV market growth? To dig into these and other fascinating topics, Ispeak with two transportation electrification experts, Sara Rafalson, Director of Market Development for EVGo, and Max Baumhefner, Senior Attorney for the Climate and Clean Energy Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. 

Guest Bios:

Sara Rafalson, Director of Market Development, EVgo

Sara leads public policy and market strategy efforts at EVgo, working with utilities, regulators, industry partners, and state legislatures across the country to advance opportunities for DC fast charging and transportation electrification. Prior to joining EVgo, Sara led public policy and market strategy efforts at Sol Systems, a national solar energy development and finance firm, and served as Vice Chair of the Board of Directors for the Maryland-D.C.-Delaware-Virginia Solar Energy Industries Association. Sara also previously led national initiatives to increase recruitment and retention of women in cleantech industries through the Solar Energy Industries Association, and served as the former President of Women in Solar Energy. She currently sits as a co-chair for the Women of Renewable Industries and Sustainable energy national leadership forum. Sara has a degree in International Studies, Sustainability, Hispanic Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Max Baumhefner, Senior Attorney, Climate & Clean Energy Program, Natural Resources Defense Council
Max Baumhefner works to make our nation’s cars, trucks, and buses zero emission vehicles. He focuses on electrifying the transportation sector in a manner that also accelerates the transition to a smarter, more affordable electric grid powered by renewable resources. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Pomona College and a JD from the University of California, Berkeley. He is based in San Francisco.

Related Links 


Grid Geeks Podcast S6 E1

New Year, New Policies: What’s in Store for Clean Energy in 2019? 

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It has been a little over two months since the November 2018 midterm elections and the 116th United States Congress has commenced – with new members in both the Senate and House and a new majority in the House. Across the States and U.S. Territories, there are 20+ new Governors taking office, which means new cabinet appointments and new policy priorities. In addition, numerous new state legislators are taking office and state legislative sessions are getting underway. On today’s episode of Grid Geeks, I talk with three federal and state policy experts about the impacts of the 2018 elections on clean energy policy and what’s on the horizon in 2019. Guests: Steve Koerner, Founder and Principal at Policy Strategy & Insight;Jessica Scott, Senior Director, Interior West for Vote Solar; and, Brad Klein, Senior Attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center. 

Guest Bios:

Steve Koerner, Founder and Principal at Policy Strategy & Insight, LLC
Steve Koerner is an independent energy policy consultant based in Northern Virginia. He has fifteen years of federal energy policy experience, including legislative staff positions in both the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. He subsequently spent five years covering federal energy policy for Recurrent Energy, a leading utility-scale solar and storage developer. Steve worked on state and RTO policy in the Eastern U.S. for Recurrent as well, and continues to cover the Eastern U.S. as a consultant. Steve chaired the SEIA’s Federal Affairs Committee from 2015 to 2018 and SEIA’s Southeastern States Committee for 2017 and 2018. He also helped lead the solar industry’s successful 2015 effort to extend the 30% federal Investment Tax Credit.

Jessica Scott, Senior Director, Interior West, Vote Solar
Jessica leads Vote Solar's campaigns in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada where she has helped preserve retail rate net metering in CO and worked to pass 11 clean energy bills out of the 2017 Nevada Legislature. Jessica was born and raised in New Mexico and graduated from Swarthmore College with a degree in biology and environmental studies. 

Brad Klein, Senior Attorney, Environmental Law & Policy Center
Brad works to accelerate solar energy policies and development, and clean water litigation and policy issues.  Mr. Klein previously served as a judicial law clerk for Judge Emmet Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and as a law fellow at the Environmental Law Institute.  Before law school, he worked as an environmental engineer at the CH2M Hill consulting firm. 


Grid Geeks Podcast S5 E5

Power Plays: How Policy Moves in California and Washington DC are Changing Energy Markets 

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In this episode of Grid Geeks, we take a closer look at two big policy maneuvers poised to catalyze some potentially major changes in the US energy markets: California’s passage of SB 100, which establishes a 100% carbon-free electricity goal by 2045 and the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Affordable Clean Energy Proposal, which is the Trump Administration’s replacement for the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan to regulate coal power plant emissions. What do these two concurrent efforts mean for clean energy markets? And what should we expect going forward? I speak with Laura Wisland, Senior Manager of Western States Energy for the Union of Concerned Scientists and Gavin Bade, Senior Reporter for Utility Dive to get more intel on these two power plays and gain insight on what they mean for clean energy, coal and the future of US energy markets. 

From this Episode:  

Guest Bios:

Laura Wisland, Senior Manager, Western States Energy, Union of Concerned Scientists Laura is a Senior Manager for Western States Energy in UCS’s Climate and Energy program, where she works on state and regional policies related to clean electricity, air quality, and global warming. As part of her work on decarbonizing the electricity grid, Laura provides research and policy analysis to legislative and regulatory agencies that develop and implement clean electricity policies and renewable integration solutions for West Coast states. Prior to coming to UCS, Laura was the Director of the California Hydropower Reform Coalition where she helped design several state and federal policies to reduce the environmental impacts of California’s existing network of hydropower dams. Laura has a masters degree from UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy, and was a Morehead-Cain scholar at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where she received a bachelor’s degree with highest honors in public policy.  

Gavin Bade, Senior Reporter, Utility Dive Before joining Industry Dive, Gavin was the editor-in-chief of Georgetown’s alt-weekly newspaper, The Georgetown Voice, and worked for a number of media publishers, including The American Prospect, NPR, the New America Foundation, and WGVU. He has a BS in Culture and Politics from the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown.

Grid Geeks Podcast S5E4

FERC, NERC and the Frontlines of the Federal Fuel Wars

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The debates on bulk-power system reliability, resiliency, and the “federal fuel wars” continue at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (or FERC) and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (or NERC). While the Trump Administration’s Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule proposal is getting the headlines, the more behind-the-scenes efforts underway at FERC and NERC continue to shape federal energy policy, energy markets and grid planning.  In this episode of Grid Geeks I talk with Ric O’Connell, the Executive Director of Grid Lab, and Mark Ahlstrom, President of the Energy Systems Integration Group, to get the latest updates from the frontlines clean energy policy, including expanding the role of energy storage on the grid, integrating “resilience” into energy markets, and updating NERC reliability standards. Show links and bios are available at:

Call for ideas! Grid Geeks listeners, please send me a tweet @SaraBaldwinAuck with #gridgeeks and send me your ideas on what topics this podcast should cover. I look forward to hearing from you!   

From this Episode: 

Guest Bios:

Ric O’Connell, Executive Director, Grid Lab. Ric is responsible for GridLab's operations and execution. A recognized leader in renewable energy technology and policy, Ric has provided engineering support for more than 8 GW of utility scale solar projects worldwide, including several of the largest projects in the world. Prior to GridLab, Ric was at Black & Veatch for 12 years where he was instrumental in building the global renewable energy consulting practice. While at Black & Veatch, Ric provided expertise to the Energy Foundation China program and had leadership roles on a number of high-profile policy studies including 20 percent Wind Energy by 2030, and the California Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative. Ric has a BSEE from Duke University and a Master's in Renewable Energy Policy from CU Boulder.

Mark Ahlstrom, President, Energy Systems Integration Group. Mark is President of the board of the Energy Systems Integration Group, the non-profit educational association that provides resources and education to the engineers, researchers, technologists and policymakers for our evolving electricity and integrated energy systems. ESIG was formerly known as the Utility Variable-Generation Integration Group (UVIG). Mark is also Vice President of Renewable Energy Policy for NextEra Energy Resources and WindLogics, NextEra’s subsidiary known for meteorology, energy analytics and renewable energy integration. Mark is actively involved in many activities across North America to support the economic and reliable use of higher levels of clean energy. 


Grid Geeks Podcast S5 E3

Navigating Energy and Transportation Innovation: New Roadmaps for Governors


Advanced technologies are transforming our daily way of life and economy - from how we heat and cool our buildings to how we transport ourselves and power our economy. We are witnessing what some have declared the “fourth Industrial Revolution.” For state governors, these rapid changes have significant implications for their citizens and economies. To help governors stay “ahead of the curve”, the National Governors Association, under the leadership of NGA Chair Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, released Energy and Transportation Innovation Roadmaps for Governors. On this episode of Grid Geeks, I speak with Sue Ganderand Daniel Lauf of the National Governors Association to learn about these roadmaps and the key policy considerations states should be thinking about as they navigate energy and transportation innovation. 

Relevant Links from this Episode:

Guest Bios:

Sue Gander serves as director for the National Governors Association (NGA) Center for Best Practices Environment, Energy and Transportation Division. Gander directs research, policy analysis and technical assistance to provide governors and their staff with data and guidance on best practices affecting the energy sector, environmental protection, natural resource management, transportation and other infrastructure. Prior to joining NGA, Gander served as program manager for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Clean Energy-Environment State Partnership program, as well as senior policy analyst and government relations director for the Center for Clean Air Policy.Gander is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design accredited professional, member of The Keystone Center Energy Board, board liaison of the Institute for Building Technology and Safety and executive group member of the Department of Energy/EPA State Energy Efficiency Action Network. Gander holds a master’s degree in public policy and a certificate in energy analysis and policy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a bachelor’s degree in public policy from Brown University. Sue originally hails from Utah.

Daniel Lauf serves as program director in the NGA Center for Best Practices Environment, Energy and Transportation Division. At NGA, Dan advises governors offices on electricity policy, utility regulation, energy assurance, energy efficiency and technology innovation. His work also includes coordination of the Federal Facilities Task Force, a group of state officials tasked with overseeing the U.S. Department of Energy’s cleanup of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex. Dan previously worked at the Maryland Energy Administration where he managed data analysis, program reporting and program evaluation for the agency. Though this role, he analyzed energy markets and provided regular reported to the governor’s office and the public on the status of the state’s energy efficiency resource standard and renewable portfolio standard. Prior, at D&R International, Dan contracted with the U.S. Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency to support appliance energy conservation standards development and specification development for the ENERGY STAR program. Dan holds a bachelor’s in Economics from Washington University and a master’s in Applied Economics from Johns Hopkins University. Dan originally hails from Maryland.

Grid Geeks Podcast S5E2

What’s a Grid Planner to Do? 

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Consumer-driven distributed energy resources (DERs), such as energy efficiency, distributed generation, electric vehicles and energy storage, are on the rise and here to stay. In many places, DERs are shaping how the grid is operated, managed, and planned. On this episode of Grid Geeks, I speak with Chairman Betty Ann Kaneof the Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia and Lisa Schwartzwith the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory about how regulators, states and utilities are addressing DERs in distribution planning, what new tools and approaches are needed, and what challenges exist to planning the grid of the future, while optimizing DERs on the grid for performance, reliability and cost-effectiveness?

From this episode:

Guest Bios:

Lisa Schwartz is the Deputy Leader of the Electricity Markets and Policy Group at Berkeley Lab. She manages the energy efficiency team, utility regulation projects, and technical assistance and training for states. Prior to working for Berkeley Lab, Lisa wore many hats, including serving as the Director of the Oregon Department of Energy, a senior associate at the Regulatory Assistance Project, and the Oregon Public Utility Commission.

Commissioner Betty Ann Kane is the Chairman of the Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia. She has served on the Commission since 2007 and is on her third term at the Commission. Before joining the Commission, she served as a Trustee and as Executive Director of the District of Columbia Retirement Board. She served four years as an At-Large member of the DC Board of Education, and was elected to three terms as an At-Large member of the City Council. Among many other roles and hats that she wears, she is also the current steering committee chair of the Mid-Atlantic Distributed Resources Initiative (MADRI). 


Grid Geeks Podcast S5E1

Puerto Rico: Grid Restoration and Resilience After Disaster

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When disaster strikes, what does it take a restore power to an entire island and rebuild a new grid, while taking steps to integrate resiliency and transform the system for the long-term. As Puerto Rico continues its efforts to recover and rebuild the electric grid after Hurricanes Irma and Maria, it has become a case study of resiliency. In this episode of Grid Geeks, I speak with Jose Roman Morales, Interim President of the Puerto Rico Energy Commission, and Julia Hamm, CEO/President of the Smart Electric Power Alliance, to learn more about the current state of the Puerto Rico electric grid, get an update on the efforts underway to make the grid more resilient, and have a candid discussion about the challenges ahead.

Related Links:

·     Puerto Rico Energy Commission

·     Smart Electric Power Alliance

·     Puerto Rico Energy Commission Regulation on Microgrid Development (Case No. CEPR-MI-2018-0001)

·     Build Back Better: Reimagining and Strengthening the Power Grid of Puerto Rico

·     SEPA’s 51stState Initiative

·     PREPA Transformation Advisory Council


Grid Geeks Podcast S4E5

Both Sides of the Aisle: Can Transmission and Distribution Planning Unite? 
(with NEW Grid Geeks HOST, Sara Baldwin Auck)

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The two sides of the grid – the transmission system and the distribution system – have distinct approaches to planning, operations, data collection, and modeling to determine future grid needs. In addition, the two systems are governed and regulated by different entities, each with unique missions and objectives. The growth of consumer-driven distributed resources and state policies are reshaping the distribution system and compelling the need to bridge the gap between the two sides of the grid. Yet, technical, policy and regulatory barriers challenge this union. In this episode of Grid Geeks, we will explore what is happening to better connect the two sides of the grid and examine what is needed going forward to expedite the transition to a more modern electric grid. 

To help us unpack all of this, Kerinia Cusick, Team Leader and Co-Founder of the Center for Renewables Integration, provides us with more insights on the components of transmission planning, and how these plans are beginning to interact and intersect with the distribution planning efforts. 

From this episode - 

· [Report]: Alternative Transmission Solutions: A Roadmap to the CAISO Transmission Planning Process,Authors: Jon Wellinghoff, Kerinia Cusick, Lorenzo Kristov, Ernesto Enrique (March 2018)

· FERC Technical Conference: Distributed Energy Resources - Technical Considerations for the Bulk Power System (Docket Nos. RM18-9-000, AD18-10-000) April 10-11, 2018

·  California Independent System Operator, Stakeholder Processes





Grid Geeks Podcast S4E4

Bring it Back Around: Reliability, Resilience & Mkts


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It’s been a great year for Grid Geeks, it’s been fun to connect with all of you on these issues it turns out many of us care about. This is my last episode before passing the baton to a new, great Grid Geek woman to host going forward. I’m ending where I started, with my friend and colleague John Moore from Sustainable FERC Project talking about wholesale energy markets in the face of a changing electricity system. Thanks for listening!

Grid Geeks Podcast S3E3

Financing the Future

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It’s been a few months now since Congress passed federal tax reform that included a reduction in the corporate tax rate, the “base erosion and anti abuse tax" or BEAT provision, deprecation bonuses and more. Developers, offtakers, lenders and utilities have been scrambling to understand the impact of these changes on energy project financing. Now that we have a dash of solar module tariff and a threat of steel and aluminum tariffs to throw in, they continue to try and pin down this moving target of an investment landscape. As a policy wonk, I'm always trying to connect what's happening in reality, in the markets, to the policy landscape. Joining me today are John Marciano, partner and co-head of global project finance at Akin Gump, and Julian Torres, director of wind and solar tax equity partnerships at Royal Bank of Canada, who bring some light on where we stand in the world of renewables investment today.

Grid Geeks Podcast S3E2

Energy Storage Takes Over the Universe


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The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently issued an important new rule, Order 841, that requires regions to remove barriers to energy storage participation in wholesale energy markets. The rule demonstrates FERC's commitment to allowing all resources capable of providing grid services to participate in wholesale markets. FERC did not include breaking down barriers to aggregations of distributed energy resources, but has committed to further inquiry about whether it should - also encouraging. A Brattle Group analysis suggest that the rule itself will unlock 7,000 MW of storage potential, while creating a platform that could contribute to achieving 50,000 MW of storage on the U.S. system.

With grid geeks to talk about the rule and its implications are Jeff Dennis, counsel to Advanced Energy Economy, and Kiran Kumaraswamy, manager at Fluence, a joint venture between AES and Siemens, both of whom were intimately involved in the rule's development.

From this episode - 

Order 841

Jeff's LBL paper on state-federal jurisdiction over energy resources

Kiran's blog

Brattle Analysis

Grid Geeks Podcast S3E1

Access to the Sun

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To kick off Season 3, we focus on a different aspect of grid resilience - low income community access to energy efficiency and renewable energy. Trisha Miller, Chief Sustainability Officer at Wishrock affordable housing developer, describes emerging trends in multi-family housing efficiency and renewable energy development, how deals get done and what they look like, and how policies like the U.S. Department of Energy's Better Building Challenge, federal investment tax incentives and the myriad of state policies and incentives are driving change in the sector.

From today's episode -    

Trisha's bio

EmPOWER Maryland 

Denver Housing Authority community solar development

Grid Alternatives Mid-Atlantic

Grid Geeks Podcast S2E8

Dispatches from the West and Good News All Around

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As we get close to the end of the calendar year and officially wrap up Season 2 of Grid Geeks, let’s talk about the good news in energy efficiency and renewable energy trends, and catch up on the state of affairs with wholesale market regionalization in the West. The economic tipping point for renewable energy is here. In addition to the ever-low cost energy efficiency, utility scale renewable energy represents the lowest-cost long term resource investment. And, cities and states around the country are filling in the federal vacuum with impressive commitments to decarbonize quickly. Environmental advocates find themselves comfortably advocating on behalf of free-market economics, while fossil interests are making up concepts like “on-site fuel security” to try and save their dinosaur power plants. Ralph Cavanagh of the Natural Resources Defense Council joins me to discuss trends observed in his organization’s Annual Energy Report – this year, America’s Clean Energy Revolution. He also shares an update on where market regionalization efforts stand in California and surrounding states.

From this episode . . .

NRDC Annual Energy Report 2017: America’s Clean Energy Revolution

Bipartisan Policy Center Report 2013: America’s Energy Resurgence

Northwest Power & Conservation Council

Secure California’s Energy Future

New York Times OpEd: Why Is America Wasting So Much Energy?

Grid Geeks Podcast S2E7

Hosting Capacity Analysis is the New Black.

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Hosting capacity analysis (HCA) is an emerging tool available to open up and more effectively engage in the integration of distributed energy resources. It involves analysis to assess the real-time ability of specific locations (circuits or even nodes) on the distribution system to manage DERs and the addition of DERs. Analysis coming from HCA modeling provides information to facilitate DER interconnection and planning.  

HCA potential is new. The modeling technology to support the effort is evolving and not standardized across the few states and utilities trying the tool on for size. As part of California’s distributed resources planning effort, the California Public Utility Commission convened an HCA working group to develop a method that utilities can use to engage in and use HCA analyses.

Sara Baldwin Auck, the regulatory program director at the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, and Sky Stanfield, senior counsel at Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger, join me to talk about HCA, lessons learned from the California and other experiences, and why we should all care about (and embrace!) the tool.

From this episode . . .

IREC report on hosting capacity analysis (coming in December 2017)

IREC lessons learned on California’s hosting capacity analysis experience

Grid Geeks Podcast S2E6

Natural Gas Pipeline Reform: Refreshing the Conversation

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One aspect of FERC’s authority that is critical to shaping our energy future is its jurisdiction to consider and approve new interstate natural gas pipelines. Unlike determinations about the need and siting of transmission lines, which generally falls within states’ authority, FERC has the jurisdiction to consider the need for and impacts of interstate natural gas pipelines. FERC’s policy, which has consisted of approving almost all of the pipeline applications that have come its way – no fewer than 400 pipelines since 2000, has been nothing if not controversial. The Center for Public Integrity issued a report in July that FERC has only denied approval of two pipelines in the last 30 years.

These pipelines are expensive, environmentally intrusive, and have real life impacts for the communities in which pipelines are planned as well as, to a lesser extent, everyone who pays a monthly electricity or gas heating bill. With steel-in-the-ground lives of 50 years or more, they also contribute to locking in carbon-polluting natural gas as a central component of our country’s electricity supply.

So, why is it so easy to get FERC approval for new pipeline development? Montina Cole, senior attorney with Natural Resources Defense Council’s Sustainable FERC Project, joins Grid Geeks to talk about a new Analysis Group report that considers FERC’s pipeline certification policy (which harkens back to 1999) in light of changing industry conditions. She connects the dots on the need for reform necessary to facilitate an affordable and clean energy future.

From today's episode:

Analysis Group Report: Natural Gas Pipeline Certification: Policy Considerations for a Changing Industry

Montina Cole's blog on the report

Environmental Defense Fund white paper on available pipeline capacity in the Northeast

Grid Geeks Podcast S2E5

What’s a DOE NOPR to do?

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This week, public comments were due on the DOE-created and now FERC-proposed rule to subsidize some out-of-the-money coal and nuclear plants in the name of fuel security and resilience. The comments tell us that outside of companies that mine coal or own merchant coal or nuclear power plants, opposition to the rule runs broad and deep.

Gavin Bade of Utility Dive, and Sonia Aggarwal and Robbie Orvis of Energy Innovation, join me to talk about the proposed rule, its significant deficiencies, and what we should focus on if we really want to try and improve grid resilience.

From today’s episode –

Utility Dive op-ed by DOE grid report author Alison Silverstein on what she would have recommended  

Gavin’s article on the pro-NOPR reliance on the Federal Power Act and a response

Energy Innovation paper: A Roadmap for Finding Flexibility in Wholesale Markets

Public Interest Organization NOPR comments on the proposed rule’s deficiencies

NRDC/Sustainable FERC NOPR comments on how to define resiliency

DOE NOPR Docket with all comment submissions (put “RM18-1” in the Docket Number field)

Grid Geeks Podcast S2E4

RTO Governance - Is It Broken and Can It Be Fixed? 

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Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs) and Independent System Operators (ISOs) have existed in their current constructs since 1999. That year, FERC finalized a rule called Order 2000 that encouraged RTO and ISO development and provided minimum characteristics and functions for their operation related to transmission service and centralized energy markets. Today, there are six FERC-jurisdictional RTOs and ISOs (and Texas has one too, not regulated by FERC) that manage transmission service, wholesale energy markets and perform reliability functions for about 2/3 of the country’s electricity customers.

But, what are these entities, exactly? They’re not government agencies, and not private companies. They are managed by a staff and independent board and all have varying degrees and types of stakeholder involvement. How do decisions get made? Which stakeholders hold the most influence? Are existing governance structures broken, and what can be done to fix them?

On today’s episode, Mark James, Senior Research Fellow at the Vermont Law School, and Christina Simeone, Director of Policy for the University of Pennsylvania’s Kleinman Energy Center, join me to talk about their respective research into RTO governance and potential reform.

From this episode:

Mark’s paper, commissioned by the R Street Institute, a free market think tank.

Christina’s paper

FERC Order 719

U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit decision emphasizing the importance of RTO stakeholder processes.

Grid Geeks Podcast S2Ep3

This Thing About Coal and Nukes

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The U.S. Department of Energy’s proposed rule on grid resilience has existed for two weeks now, and is nothing if not controversial. The rule that DOE would have the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission enact would invent a new “resilience” value based on on-site fuel availability (a 90-day supply, to be specific) that could only (or mostly) be provided by merchant coal and nuclear plants. In the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, the rule would award these power plants a payment in addition to the clearing price they receive in wholesale energy, capacity and ancillary service markets in order to help them cover their going forward costs and stay in business.

This effective bailout for coal and nuclear plants would provide a life line to power plants that are losing in the market place and therefore uneconomic to keep online. The action would undermine the existence of competitive, technology-neutral wholesale energy markets. In addition, the proposal requires a significant leap in logic from determining that the grid needs something called “resilience,” defining that term as on-site fuel security, and then formulating criteria that ensure only merchant coal and nuclear plants qualify to provide the service.

Sue Tierney, Senior Advisor at the Analysis Group and former DOE Assistant Secretary, and Doug Smith, partner at Van Ness Feldman and former FERC General Counsel, join me to consider the market and legal aspects of DOE’s proposal.

From this episode –

DOE’s Proposed Rule

FERC Staff’s questions in the docket

Another good podcast on the issues – GTM’s the Interchange with Ari Peskoe

Grid Geeks Podcast Season 2 Episode 2

Securitization to Accelerate the Energy Transition

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Now that wind and solar resources are achieving cost parity (assuming potential import tariffs don’t change the equation), why don’t those pesky less economic coal plants go away? On today’s episode, Uday Varadarajan of the Climate Policy Initiative and Harriet Moyer Aptekar of Crest Consulting discus the potential for utilities to use securitization via utility bond financing to address utility accounting and rate base erosion issues that stand in the way of retiring old, uneconomic coal plants.  

We’ve talked about how some coal plants are losing out in wholesale energy markets due to lower-cost natural gas resources, among other reasons. It’s a different story in states that remain vertically integrated with utilities that do not participate in centralized wholesale markets. In these vertically integrated states, costs for power plant investments are recovered through retail customer bills over the “useful life” of the assets, often 30 years. Sometimes, even if plants are operating at inefficient or uncompetitive costs, a utility’s need or desire to maintain the coal plant as rate base are the main reason they stay in operation.

So what if we can change that equation? What if we can use private financing to get utilities on board with coal plant retirement? Today we talk about efforts to do just that.