The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Thursday proposed a rule that would take another step toward ensuring that intermittent renewable energy resources are given fair access to transmission and power markets.  Calling it a foundational step, FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff said changes required by the proposed rule would “prepare the electric grid for the future.” The rule is expected to “help to operate the transmission system more efficiently and reliably, which should contain the cost to customers if buying transmission service,” he said.  The notice of proposed rulemaking (Docket No. RM10-11) would require public utility transmission providers to offer a new ancillary service, generator regulation service, to transmission customers delivering energy from a renewable generator in its balancing area. Specifically, these utilities must offer customers the ability to use intra-hour transmission scheduling at 15-minute intervals.  It also would allow transmission providers to recover costs they incur in providing ancillary service, Wellinghoff noted.

Transmission customers may buy this service from the transmission provider or they may make alternate comparable arrangements, which could include non-generating resources such as demand response.  The proposed rule also incorporates a provision in the proforma large generator interconnection agreement that interconnection customers whose generating facilities are variable energy resources must begin to submit to transmission providers necessary meteorological and operational data that would be used to better plan and forecast for use of these variable resources.  Lastly, it requires a generic ancillary services rate schedule, through which transmission providers will offer generator regulation service to customers delivering energy from a resource within a transmission provider’s balancing area.  The reforms are intended to remove barriers to the integration of variable energy resources and to ensure the costs of services to integrate them are just and reasonable, commission staff said in presenting the proposed rule at the FERC meeting.  The reforms focus on creating operational efficiencies that should equip transmission providers with the tools and procedures to maintain system balance — a task that can be exacerbated by the variable power output of some renewables — while reducing the need for transmission providers to unnecessarily buy additional reserve products, staff said.  The rule would require changes to market and grid rules and it “places additional obligations on variable energy resources,” said Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur. She added that this is a “step that really reflects the maturation” of these resources and their ability to provide such information to be integrated in the markets better. — Esther Whieldon