FERC Order 842 requires primary frequency response by generators

Monday, March 12, 2018

U.S. energy regulators have issued an order amending standard interconnection agreements to require new generators to install, maintain and operate a functioning governor or equivalent controls capable of primary frequency response as a precondition of interconnection. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's Order No. 842 also amended the pro forma interconnection agreements to include certain operating requirements including maximum droop and deadband parameters, and sustained response provisions.

As described by the Commission, reliable operation of an alternating current grid requires maintaining system frequency within predetermined boundaries above and below 60 Hertz. Frequency response describes an interconnected grid’s ability to arrest and stabilize deviations from this predetermined range of frequencies after a sudden loss of generation or load.

Historically, the U.S. grid's primary frequency response capability came from baseload synchronous generators such as coal-fired power plants. But many such plants have retired in recent years, with further retirements expected. In 2016, the Commission noted that shifts in the portfolio of U.S. electric generators meant fewer resources could likely provide primary frequency response, especially if new variable energy resources such as wind and solar did not provide this service. In response, it opened an inquiry into what primary frequency response reforms it should make.

On February 15, 2018, the Commission issued its Order No. 842 revising its regulations to require newly interconnecting large and small generating facilities, both synchronous and non-synchronous, to install, maintain, and operate equipment capable of providing primary frequency response as a condition of interconnection. The final rule also amends the Commission's pro forma interconnection agreements to include certain operating requirements including maximum droop and deadband parameters, and sustained response provisions. It provides exemptions for nuclear power plants and some combined heat-and-power plants.

These requirements will apply to most newly interconnecting generation facilities that execute, or request the unexecuted filing of, an LGIA or SGIA on or after the rule’s effective date, as well as to existing large and small generating facilities that take any action that requires the submission of a new interconnection request that results in the filing of an executed or unexecuted interconnection agreement on or after the effective date.

In a press release, the Commission said its action was intended to address "the increasing impact of the evolving generation resource mix." Commissioner LaFleur made a separate statement in which she noted that while decreases in the nation's portfolio percentage of synchronous generation have contributed to declining frequency response performance, "recent technological advancements have enabled new non-synchronous generating facilities, such as wind and solar, to cost-effectively include primary frequency response capabilities in their facilities." Improved inverters and battery storage are among these innovations.

The Commission has also recently noted the potential of electric storage resources to provide frequency response and other services. Its Order No. 841 is designed to remove barriers to the participation of electric storage resources in wholesale markets operated by regional transmission organization and independent system operators, including markets for frequency response.

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