The Chief Energy Regulator FERC Gets Back To Work

by Denise A. Bode

With two new commissioners sworn in, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) held its first hearing this week since January. In case you don’t know, FERC is an independent agency that regulates the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas, and oil. FERC also reviews proposals to build liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals and interstate natural gas pipelines as well as licensing hydropower projects.

In recent years, it has become increasingly high-profile in its review and approval of permits to build interstate pipelines and LNG export facilities.  So much so, that environmental group have taken to greeting commissioners and staff outside their building, disrupting the open meeting in the hearing room, and even camping outside the commissioners’ homes.

In their first meetings back, the agenda was only of average length with 23 electric items, including tariff changes, rehearing orders and three reliability standard rulemakings. One of the key items of interest was the standard on emergency preparedness and operations which the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) asked FERC to approve a rule submitted in March that would clarify what kind of damage and threats to electric facilities are reported, and when. This is of particular interest after the devastating hits to our power grid by the recent massive hurricanes. But this pace is likely to increase, as the new Commissioners get up to speed and a significant backlog that has accumulated over the last six months gets pushed to their attention.  The commission will likely be joined by the new FERC chairman nominee Kevin McIntyre and Democratic commissioner pick Rich Glick after approval by the full Senate soon.  Those two nominees sailed through the Senate energy committee this week as well.

The Congress is moving to give FERC some additional responsibilities as well, if new legislation in the House and Senate is passed. The newly introduced Senate bill would streamline coordination between state and federal agencies working on natural gas pipeline permitting. S. 1844, authored by Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Angus King (I-Maine), would designate the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as the lead agency for assessing planned natural gas projects and set a 45-day deadline for agencies to let companies know whether their applications are ready to be processed. The bill includes similar language to House bill, H.R. 2910, which passed in the House in July despite opposition from environmentalists who are concerned it will allow FERC to fast-track approvals and sacrifices public input and thorough environmental reviews.  The House bill set a deadline of 90 days after environmental review is complete for FERC to give final approval to a project, whereas the Senate bill does not contain such a provision.  To learn more about FERC, click here.













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                    FROM THE CHART ROOM

                    Electric Vehicles Charge at About Half the Power Draw of an Electric Furnace


                    Sources: Water heater, space heater, refrigerator – U.S. Department of Energy, Estimating Appliance and Home Electronic Energy Use, accessed July 18, 2017.

                    Electric vehicles can be charged at power draws comparable to various household appliances. Most electric vehicles charging at home on a 240-volt level 2 charger will draw about 7,200 watts or less. For comparison, a typical electric furnace draws about 10,000 watts and a water heater uses 4,500 watts. The power draw for an electric vehicle is limited by either the electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) or the vehicle’s onboard charger which limits the rate of electricity the vehicle can accept. Many first-generation plug-in vehicles have onboard chargers limited to 3,600 watts, similar to the power draw for a typical home air conditioning system, while newer electric vehicles have increased onboard charging rates. Some owners use only a standard 120-volt household outlet (level 1 charging) which has a very slow charge rate and low power draw compared to the level 2 charging. There are some electric vehicles, such as those produced by Tesla, that allow for even greater home charging speeds and higher power draws similar to an electric furnace. While an electric vehicle can draw a considerable amount of electricity when charging, the overall fuel cost for an electric vehicle is lower than a comparable gasoline vehicle.

                    Level 1 charging assumes the 12-amp setting is selected.  For comparison, a 2013 Nissan LEAF is rated at 115 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) and a conventional 2013 Nissan Versa is rated at 35 MPG. This results in a cost of 3.8 cents per mile for the LEAF and 6.7 cents per mile for the Versa at 13 cents per kW-hr and $2.35 per gallon of gasoline.



                    Michael Best Strategies’ Energy Team

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