On May 2, 2018, staff from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC,” or “Commission”), the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (“NERC”), and the NERC Regional Entities (the “Joint Study Team”), issued a joint report titled “FERC-NERC-Regional Entity Joint Review of Restoration and Recovery Plans” (“Joint Report”), which evaluated blackstart resources and planning by a representative sample of nine volunteer utilities registered with NERC (the “Participants”). According to the Joint Report, the Participants verified that they currently have sufficient blackstart resources in their system restoration plans, as well as comprehensive strategies for mitigating against loss of any additional blackstart resources going forward. The Joint Report also made a number of recommendations for users, owners, or operators of the bulk-power system (“Registered Entities”) and others responsible for system restoration.

In September 2014, the Joint Study Team initiated a joint staff review to assess the recovery plans of Registered Entities for restoration of the bulk-power system after a widespread outage or blackout. In January 2016, this joint staff review culminated in the issuance of a joint Report on Restoration and Recovery Plans, which, among other things, identified the need to further study blackstart resource availability. Subsequently, in the spring of 2017, the Joint Study Team initiated a study of the availability of Registered Entities’ blackstart resources, the potential impacts of recent changes (e.g. retirement of blackstart-capable units) on Registered Entities’ blackstart resources, and the manner in which any such impacts could be mitigated. The joint study also included an assessment of Registered Entities’ blackstart resource testing under anticipated blackstart conditions to ensure that these resources can effectively restore the bulk-power system following a widespread outage.

In their Joint Report, the Joint Study Team found that although some Participants have experienced a decrease in the availability of blackstart resources due to retirement of blackstart-capable units over the past decade, they have nonetheless verified that they currently have sufficient blackstart resources in their system restoration plans, as well as comprehensive strategies for mitigating against loss of any additional blackstart resources going forward. The Joint Study Team also found that Participants that have performed expanded testing of blackstart capability, including testing energization of the next-start generating unit (i.e. the first generating unit in the cranking path to be energized using power from the blackstart generating unit), “gained valuable knowledge that was used to modify, update and improve their system restoration.”

The Joint Study made a number of recommendations for Registered Entities and others responsible for system restoration to consider, including: (1) mitigate risks associated with the reliance on a single fuel; (2) consider further study of the adequacy of compensation for blackstart and other resources supporting system restoration; (3) verify model data to ensure the accuracy of blackstart simulations through coordination between transmission and generation registered entities; (4) expand testing, where feasible, to confirm viability of blackstart capability through coordination between transmission and generation Registered Entities; and (5) obtain insight from Registered Entities that have experience with expanded testing.

A copy of the Joint Report is available here.