FERC staff guidance for Clean Power Plan modeling

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Staff of the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission have issued a white paper presenting guidance principles for modeling state plans to comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan carbon regulations from existing fossil fuel-fired electric power plants.

The EPA issued the Clean Power Plan on August 3, 2015 as a regulation under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act.  The Clean Power Plan limits carbon dioxide emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired electric power plants.  The final rule provides state specific goals for carbon dioxide emissions from affected electric generating units, including interim emissions goals from 2022 to 2029 and a final goal for 2030.

Due to congressional concern that environmental regulations not jeopardize the reliability of the electric grid, each covered state must demonstrate that it has considered reliability issues in developing its plan.  That consideration of reliability is certain to include modeling.  The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has entered into an agreement with EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy to coordinate certain activities to help ensure continued reliable electricity generation and transmission during the Clean Power Plan's implementation.

In furtherance of that mission, on January 19, 2016, staff of the Commission released an 18-page white paper identifying four guiding principles that may assist transmission planning entities in conducting effective analysis of the Clean Power Plan and associated state, regional, or federal compliance plans.

These guiding principles address four areas:
  • Transparency and stakeholder engagement: "transparency and stakeholder engagement in model development, model inputs and study designs can help identify policy alternatives and effectively evaluate assumptions, while also improving coordination across transmission planning regions."
  • Study methodology and interactions between studies: "incorporating changes to current study methodologies can allow transmission planning entities to more effectively assess the impact of the CPP and associated compliance plans."
  • Study inputs, sensitivities and probabilistic analysis: "using study inputs that account for uncertainty and test for sensitivity can help effectively assess the impact of the CPP and associated compliance plans."
  • Tools and techniques: "adopting new modeling tools and techniques may help transmission planning entities better assess the overall impact of the CPP and associated compliance plans."

The FERC staff white paper notes that while "effectively evaluating the impacts of the CPP may present challenges, these challenges can be mitigated by using appropriate modeling tools and techniques."  Under the Clean Power Plan, states have until September 6, 2016, to submit either a final carbon-cutting plan or to request a two-year extension and to submit an initial plan for EPA review.

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