Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘FERC’

MendoCoastCurrent, June 25, 2010

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) today proposed to build on its Order No. 890 open access transmission reforms by establishing a closer link between regional electric transmission planning and cost allocation to help ensure that needed transmission facilities actually are built.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) is based on an extensive record: three years of monitoring implementation of Order No. 890, three regional technical conferences and examination of more than 150 sets of comments filed in response to an October 2009 request for comment on transmission planning and cost allocation. It proposes and seeks comment on requiring:

  • Transmission providers to establish a closer link between cost allocation and regional transmission planning by identifying and establishing cost allocation methods for beneficiaries of new transmission facilities;
  • Transmission planning to take into account needs driven by public policy requirements established by state or federal laws or regulations;
  • Neighboring transmission planning regions to improve their coordination with respect to facilities that are proposed to be constructed in two adjacent regions and could address transmission needs more efficiently than separate intraregional facilities; and
  • The removal from Commission-approved tariffs or agreements provisions that provide an undue advantage to an incumbent developer so that sponsors of transmission projects have the right, consistent with state or local laws or regulations, to build and own facilities selected for inclusion in regional transmission plans.

“Our nation needs a transmission grid that can accommodate rising consumer demand for a more diverse mix of power generators and the sophisticated technology of the smart grid,” FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff said. “To do that, we must make sure FERC transmission policies are open and fair to all.”

A significant aspect of the proposal is the requirement that transmission planning take into account public policy requirements, such as state-mandated renewable portfolio standards. Doing so during the transmission planning process will help ensure these legal requirements are met in a way that is fair and efficient to transmission customers.

The proposal also ties cost allocation to the regional transmission planning processes to facilitate the transition from planning to implementation. This ensures that only those consumers benefiting from transmission facilities are charged for associated costs, and gives each region the first opportunity to develop cost allocation mechanisms and identify how the benefits of transmission facilities will be determined. Comments are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

Read Full Post »

MendoCoastCurrent, June 24, 2010

Public institutions and private sector organizations from across the country should form a coalition to help states, localities and regions develop and deploy successful and cost-effective electric demand response programs, a new Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) staff report says.

The coalition effort is the centerpiece of the National Action Plan on Demand Response Report , issued today, that identifies strategies and activities to achieve the objectives of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

“There is strength in numbers. Coalitions harness the combined energy of individual organizations, producing results that can go far beyond what can be accomplished on an individual basis,” FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff said. “The success of this National Action Plan depends on all interested public and private supporters working to implement it.”

The public-private coalition outlined in the National Action Plan would coordinate and combine the efforts of state and local officials, utilities and demand response providers, regional wholesale power market operators, electricity consumers, the federal government and other interest groups. Demand response refers to the ability of customers to adjust their electricity use by responding to price signals, reliability concerns or signals from the grid operator. Demand response is a valuable resource for meeting the nation’s energy needs.

The 2007 law required FERC to identify the requirements for technical assistance to states so they can maximize the amount of demand response that can be developed and deployed; design and identify requirements for a national communications program that includes broad-based customer education and support; and develop or identify analytical tools, information, model regulations and contracts and other materials for use by customers, states, utilities and demand response providers.

The National Action Plan applies to the entire country, yet recognizes Congress’ intent that state and local governments play an important role in developing demand response. It is the result of more than two years of open, transparent consultation with all interested groups to help states, localities and regions develop demand response resources.

The National Action Plan on Demand Response is available at here.

Read Full Post »

MARSHA WALTON, MNN.com, June 8, 2010

The last thing that supporters of a promising renewable energy source want is a technology that harms wildlife.

So before wave energy buoys are deployed off the Oregon coast, scientists and developers want to make sure that 18,000 migrating gray whales are not put in jeopardy.

These whales, weighing 30 to 40 tons each, make a twice-yearly journey, heading south to breed off Baja, Mexico, in winter, and back up to the Pacific Northwest in spring.

Biologist Bruce Mate wants to find out if a low power underwater noise can be used effectively to nudge the whales away from wave energy devices.

“We want them to turn their headlights on,” says Mate, director of Oregon State’s Marine Mammal Institute.

Mate says the “whoop-whoop-whoop” sound being tested “is designed to be something unnatural. We don’t want them to think of it as background noise, as a wave, or as another animal. We want it to be something that is disconcerting,” he says.

Disconcerting enough so that the animals would move a few hundred yards away from the energy-capturing buoys, expected to weigh about 200 tons.

The underwater cables on these wave buoys are solid, 4 to 6 inches in diameter. Mate says a gray whale swimming 3 to 4 mph could be seriously hurt if it collided with a cable.

Mate has a grant from the Department of Energy to test whether the acoustic device is the right strategy to keep whales and buoys away from each other. Tests will begin in late December, and end before mothers and calves migrate north in May.

The noise-making device, about the size of a cantaloupe, will be located about 75 feet below the ocean surface, moored in about 140 feet of water. During the testing, it will make noise for three seconds a minute, six hours a day.

Gray whales stick close to shore, about 2.5 to 3 miles away. Swimming farther out, they can become lunch for killer whales.

During the tests, researchers will use theodolites, surveying instruments that measure horizontal and vertical angles. Mate says the animals’ actions should be fairly easy to observe as they encounter the noise.

“These animals track very straight lines during migration. They are motivated to get to the other end,” he says.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) licenses wave energy technologies, and dozens of agencies oversee how this technology will affect ocean life.

“Wave energy developers are required to undergo a rigorous permitting process to install both commercial-scale and pilot projects,” says Thomas Welch of the Department of Energy (DOE).

Ocean Power Technologies is set to deploy the first of 10 energy-generating buoys off Reedsport, Ore., later this year.

Wave energy developers say they have worked with conservation groups from the start, dealing with everything from whales to erosion.

“As an untapped renewable resource there is tremendous potential,” says Justin Klure, a partner at Pacific Energy Ventures, a company that advances the ocean energy industry.

A believer in clean energy, Klure says it is imperative that the technology be the least disruptive.

“Nobody knows if a large buoy or any other technology is going to have an impact on an ecosystem. A misstep early could set back the industry. This is hard work, it’s expensive, if you don’t have a solid foundation, we feel, that is going to cost you later,” he says.

Klure says the industry has studied how other energy development, including wind and solar, have dealt with environmental challenges.

“I think the lesson here is how critical project siting is. It’s the same concept as land use planning for the ocean. Where are the most sensitive ecosystems? Where are areas that need to be preserved for recreation, or commercial fishing?” Klure says.

It will likely be five to 10 years before wave energy provides significant electricity production. But the acoustics research by Mate could provide help to animals, reaching beyond the Pacific coast.

“We certainly hope it has broader uses,” Mate says. If the sounds do move animals to safety, similar devices could be used to lure whales back from shallow waters if they are in danger of stranding — or even help whales or other marine mammals skirt the poisons of a large oil spill.

Read Full Post »

May 22, 2010

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the State of California have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to coordinate procedures and schedules for review of hydrokinetic energy projects off the California coast.

This marks the fourth hydrokinetics MOU that FERC has signed with other states, following agreements signed last year with Washington and Maine, and with Oregon in 2008. Today’s agreement ensures that FERC and California will undertake all permitting and licensing efforts in an environmentally sensitive manner, taking into account economic and cultural concerns.

“This agreement with California shows FERC’s continuing commitment to work with the states to ensure American consumers can enjoy the environmental and financial benefits of clean, renewable hydrokinetic energy,” FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff said.

“I am delighted the State of California has signed an MOU with the Commission on developing hydrokinetic projects off the California coast,” Commissioner Philip Moeller said. “This completes a sweep of the West Coast which, along with Maine, is showing its commitment to bringing the benefits of clean hydrokinetic energy to the consumers of the United States.”

FERC and California have agreed to the following with respect to hydrokinetics:

  • Each will notify the other when one becomes aware of a potential applicant for a preliminary permit, pilot project license or license;
  • When considering a license application, each will agree as early as possible on a schedule for processing. The schedule will include milestones, and FERC and California will encourage other federal agencies and stakeholders to comply with the schedules;
  • They will coordinate the environmental reviews of any proposed projects in California state waters. FERC and California also will consult with stakeholders, including project developers, on the design of studies and environmental matters; and
  • They will encourage applicants to seek pilot project licenses prior to a full commercial license, to allow for testing of devices before commercial deployment.

Read Full Post »

JEFF ST.  JOHN, Earth2Tech, March 1, 2010

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Jon Wellinghoff wants his agency to have a lot more authority over planning cross-state transmission lines, as well as getting states and utilities to share the costs of building them. But on Monday, the utility industry pushed back. The Coalition for Fair Transmission Policy — an industry group made up of 10 big utilities including Southern Co., Consolidated Edison, Alliant, DTE Energy, PPL, Progress Energy and PSEG — says it will lobby to change proposed Senate legislation that it says could unfairly spread the costs of building big new transmission lines across multiple states. Or, to put it another way, “states and regions that get the benefits of new transmission should be the ones to pay for them,” Bruce Edelston, the coalition’s executive director, said Monday.

The coalition has a specific target —Senate Bill 1462, otherwise known as the American Clean Leadership Act. It wants to take out language from the bill that would give FERC more authority over transmission lines, and replace it with language that “precludes the allocation of transmission expansion costs to electric consumers unless there are measurable economic or reliability benefits for those consumers.”

Wellinghoff has said his agency needs more power to force states to agree on new ways to share the costs of massive new transmission lines to carry clean power from the places it’s most cheaply produced to where it’s most needed. Without it, he told a Senate panel in March, “it is unlikely that the Nation will be able to achieve energy security and economic stability.”

But FERC having more power could involve, for example, a transmission line from a North Dakota wind farm to Illinois’ Chicago suburbs, which might cross three states along its route. How should those “middle mile” states, which have to give up land and cover some costs of maintaining those lines, but may not receive power, be given a piece of the action? In Edelston’s view, the costs and benefits of such undertakings should be shared equally among all regions that have to give something up to let them happen. If a project can’t pay for itself while providing some financial benefit to utility customers in each of those states, it shouldn’t get built, he said.

President Barack Obama has called for 3,000 miles of new transmission lines to be built to help the country double its renewable energy use by 2012. Estimates on the costs of this new interstate energy highway system range from $100 billion to $200 billion, Edelston said — and those costs may be underestimated. A consortium of Eastern power grid operators said last year that transmission to carry wind power from the Midwest to the East could cost $80 billion over the next 15 years or so.

Wellinghoff has said that with such scale of the transmission lines needed, it might be hard to move quickly through the complicated, state-by-state siting and permitting mechanisms now in place — and that’s not to mention the universal opposition to having high-voltage power lines running through your backyard or environmentally sensitive region. For a sampling of the barriers to new transmission lines even within one state’s boundaries, look to California, where one big transmission line in the Central Valley was canceled in the face of local landowner and environmental opposition, and another in San Diego and Imperial counties is being challenged in court.

But Edelston pointed out that transmission projects are still moving forward under business-as-usual conditions, and several projects are underway by “Green Power Express” developer ITC for example. Other private efforts are underway, such as the Tres Amigas project that would connect the nation’s three mega-grid systems in the East, West and in Texas. Transmission projects take years to plan, permit and build, however, making long-range financing a challenge.

Not all utilities are against FERC’s sought-after expanded authority. American Electric Power, which serves 11 states, urged a Senate panel in March to expand federal authority over new transmission lines, including more broad cost-sharing, saying the economic benefits will outweigh the costs. FERC has already signed a MOU with EPA and the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy and the Interior to work together on siting and permitting new transmission lines on federal lands, but that doesn’t necessarily solve the problem of states and their utilities arguing over costs and benefits.

For companies making next-generation transmission equipment such as HVDC and superconducting wire and cable — not to mention developers of utility-scale renewable power projects in hard-to-reach areas — it’s an important controversy to keep an eye on.

Read Full Post »

FRANK HARTZELL, Mendocino Beacon, February 25, 2010

The Southern California investment company with a federal permit to develop wave energy in waters off Mendocino has entered into a partnership with one of the world’s top companies in the field.

GreenWave Energy Solutions recently entered into a memo of understanding, or MOU, with Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) of New Jersey, a move which makes wave energy off the village of Mendocino much more likely than ever.

Earlier this month, Ocean Power Technologies earned a federal license to develop wave energy off Reedsport, Ore., a groundbreaking move in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) process.

Ocean Power Technologies had its own FERC wave energy preliminary permit off Cape Mendocino but last year gave up on that site as impractical. OPT, which has since eclipsed many of its hydrokinetics competitors, plans to bring its experience to developing waters off Mendocino, the FERC permit states.

OPT recently deployed one of its Power Buoys off Hawaii, where it is also developing wave energy. OPT has been granted the exclusive right to sell their patented WEC devices to GreenWave for the generation of electrical power off Mendocino.

The existence of GreenWave’s FERC preliminary permit already spells doom for the creation of any new Marine Life Protection Act (MLPAI) Initiative protection of the claimed area.

GreenWave told FERC in its latest progress report that the firm has a target date of April 2012 for filing a license to actually develop electricity off Mendocino.

A preliminary permit gives exclusive study rights to an area to the applicant and also provides automatic preference to a license to actually produce power in the ocean.

“The proposed 100 megawatt GreenWave Mendocino Wave Park is estimated to generate an average of 250 GigaWatt-hours annually. GreenWave has contacted most or all of the stakeholders … and will continue to conduct community outreach and informational efforts to keep all stakeholders apprised of progress and plans related to the environmental studies and development of this proposed wave energy project,” the FERC filing by GreenWave President Wayne Burkamp states.

GreenWave and Ocean Power Technologies plan joint meetings locally beginning in March, the filing states. The two firms plan to file full details of the wave energy project with FERC by March and then discuss those plans in public meetings with locals.

Wave energy has generated substantial local opposition led by local fishermen. The environmental community in Mendocino has also opposed wave energy. Environmentalists in Humboldt County have not been involved in the issue.

PG&E, faced with local opposition, withdrew its Fort Bragg wave energy development application and continued its effort in friendlier Humboldt County, then added a second site in Southern California.

National environmental groups signed off on wave energy in a letter to president Obama. But the Obama administration studied the issue and, like Fort Bragg residents, learned the technology raised serious environmental issues and was too theoretical to help with the nation’s energy needs in the foreseeable future. In the meantime, fishing and civic groups have been seeking to construct a public process that protects the ocean.

A group formed in Fort Bragg, Fishermen Interested in Safe Hydrokinetics (FISH) is the lead plaintiff on a lawsuit against FERC challenging FERC’s issuance of the exclusive development rights to waters off Mendocino to GreenWave. The city of Fort Bragg, County of Mendocino, the Ocean Protection Council, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen and the Recreational Fishing Alliance are also part of the challenge.

The lawsuit, with filings due in federal court this spring and summer, asserts that FERC failed to follow environmental laws or create a comprehensive plan before issuing wave energy permits.

“GreenWave has reviewed the allegations contained in the complaint and believes the allegations are without merit. GreenWave is monitoring this litigation and will provide any support that FERC believes necessary,” GreenWave’s recent filing states.

PG&E said the reason it abandoned its Fort Bragg development site was Noyo Harbor is unsuitable. That hasn’t discouraged GreenWave so far.

Background

The exclusive three-year preliminary permit granted in May 2009 to GreenWave stretches from just north of Albion to off Point Cabrillo, about a half-mile to three miles offshore.

Five men from the Thousand Oaks area of Southern California, including Tony Strickland, a Republican state senator, formed GreenWave Energy Solutions about two years ago.

Strickland, one of the state’s most ardent deregulators and anti-tax advocates, won the state Legislature’s closest race last November by a handful of votes, California’s closest major race. He made his involvement in alternative energy a key part of his campaign.

Green Wave Energy Solutions when formed was composed of Burkamp, Strickland, engineer Bill Bustamante and prominent housing developers Dean Kunicki and Gary Gorian.

Calls to GreenWave’s message phone number revealed Strickland and the others are still involved.

GreenWave does not mention Strickland, or any local members of the California Legislature among its communications with the Legislature in its report to FERC.

“GreenWave has participated in numerous meetings with California state government officials regarding various aspects of the permitting process and the political dynamics of development of a wave farm, in this district. GreenWave has met with various legislative personnel including California State Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes (39th District). Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher (75th District), and Gov. Schwarzenegger’s Chief Deputy Legislative Assistant, John Moffatt.

“These meetings involved discussions regarding the future of wave energy in California, working to streamline the permitting process in California and questions related to legislation which would assist in wave energy development,” the FERC filing states.

The Marine Life Protection Act Initiative process has concentrated solely on restricting and banning fishing, despite broader general ocean protection goals in the act. An opinion issued by the California Attorney General’s office states that any prior legal claim (such as a preliminary permit for wave energy) precludes the establishment of any type of new marine protected area. However, that fact has not yet been introduced into the discussions of creation of “arrays” or fishing restricted areas, despite large areas off limits in both Humboldt and Mendocino counties due to permits granted to PG&E and GreenWave.

Editor’s Note: Phenomenal reporting by Frank Hartzell, thank you!

Read Full Post »

FRANK HARTZELL, Mendocino Beacon, December 17, 2009

The Obama administration has launched a new “zoning” approach that puts all ocean activities under the umbrella of nine regional planning bodies.

Public comments are being accepted through Friday, Feb. 12.

The approach is more local and integrated than the current strategy, which puts separate functions under different federal agencies. But it remains to be seen how such a plan can satisfy a plethora of federal laws that now protect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes.

The issue of whales killed by ships (like the blue whale kill in October off Fort Bragg) is cited in the new report as an example of how the regional planning approach could solve problems that single agencies cannot.

In the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary off Boston, the Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and several other government agencies and stakeholders reconfigured the Boston Traffic Separation Scheme, after numerous fatal collisions between marine mammals and ships.

This kind of joint action is what the new Obama approach anticipates using nationwide.

The reconfigured shipping lanes reduced risk of collision by an estimated 81% for all baleen whales and 58% for endangered right whales, studies show.

NOAA is the lone federal agency dealing with the whale kill issue locally, working with two state agencies, which have regulations that are inconsistent. With the Fort Bragg incident highlighting weaknesses in the regulatory process, a regional board could propose solutions.

In another example of oversight conflict, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) planned and launched a policy for wave energy leasing completely without local governments’ knowledge. Other federal agencies also bombarded FERC with criticism and problems their federal fellow had failed to anticipate when FERC’s program came to light.

The Obama administration’s idea is to bring all the federal and local agencies to the table at the planning stage, not the reactive stage.

“The uses of our oceans, coasts and Great Lakes have expanded exponentially over time,” said Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, who also heads the Ocean Policy Task Force. “At the same time they are facing environmental challenges, including pollution and habitat destruction, that make them increasingly vulnerable.

“Without an improved, more thoughtful approach, we risk an increase in user conflicts and the potential loss of critical economic, ecosystem, social, and cultural benefits for present and future generations,” said Sutley, in a press release.

Many scientific studies have called for ocean zoning, but this is the first effort to make the idea work.

California, Oregon and Washington would be included in a single planning area The participants in the planning process, such as Indian tribes, federal agencies, states and local entities, would be asked to sign a contract modeled on development agreements.

Development agreements are widely used by housing developers to bring all county and state permitting agencies to the table so they can get loans and prepare to launch a project.

Sutley said the administration will reconvene the National Ocean Council to work with the regional planning bodies.

While the new approach promises more locally responsive planning, the job of the National Ocean Council will be to ensure that planning is consistent from region to region. That is likely to create some conflicts with monied interests representing some uses, such as oil drilling, and leave other uses with less ability to advocate at the table.

The proposal comes from the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force, established by President Obama on June 12. It is led by Sutley and consists of 24 senior-level officials from administration agencies, departments and offices.

The task force’s interim framework is available for a 60-day public review and comment period. After the close of the comment period, the task force will finalize its recommendations in both this report and the Sept. 10 interim report and provide a final report to the President in early 2010.

For more details on the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force, including the interim framework, and to submit comments, visit www.whitehouse.gov/oceans.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »