On November 15, House and State republicans announced a draft energy bill that would slow the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) goal of setting nationwide transmission grid rules. The bill would stop FERC’s efforts to require utilities to join regional transmission organization (RTOs). It doesn’t aim to stop utilities from moving forward voluntarily with regional grid combinations, but it does hinder FERC’s plans.
FERC contends the independently-run RTOs could help cut down on grid bottlenecks and attract needed investments, and Southern lawmakers protest the proposal, saying it infringes upon state authority and threatens to boost electric bills.
Merchant power producers criticize the measure. Lynne Church, president of the Electric Power Supply Association, which represents independent plant owners who often vie with utilities for grid access, says the measure could “facilitate discrimination in terms of grid access” and keep low-cost power from reaching consumers.
Still, some support the bill. A spokesperson for The Edison Electric Institute, which represents most U.S utilities, says the draft bill strikes a balance between vertically-integrated utilities and merchant power generators. The bill “could help resolve some pretty thorny issues and provide some market certainty,” the spokesperson says.
A bipartisan House-Senate energy conference committee will debate the Republican-written draft bill on November 24. It’s expected to win easy approval in the full House later in the week, but could face opposition from Senate Democrats.