FERC is seeking comment from the industry on the various barriers impeding the integration of variable energy resources, which it termed “VERs,” into the transmission grid.

VERs represent generation resources where the output is not directly controllable and include such generation technologies as wind, solar, and certain hydroelectric resources. In contrast to conventional electricity-generating resources, VERs may be location-constrained and are not immediately dispatchable. Because of these unique characteristics, VERs face grid-integration problems not present with conventional fossil-fueled generators.

FERC acknowledged that VERs provide important benefits such as low-marginal energy costs and reduced greenhouse-gas emissions, and that these benefits recently have driven significant generation development. FERC noted, however, that integrating VERs into the transmission grid can affect system reliability by decreasing forecasting accuracy and increasing variability. For example, wind speeds, which affect generation output, can be difficult to forecast precisely.

FERC issued the Notice of Inquiry (NOI) to explore whether “existing rules, regulations, tariffs, or industry practices within FERC's jurisdiction may hinder the reliable and efficient integration of VERs, resulting in rates that are unjust and unreasonable and/or terms of service that unduly discriminate against certain types of resources.”

Acknowledging that many of its policies were developed when electricity was almost exclusively generated by conventional fossil-fuel plants, FERC requested comments on the following specific topics:

  • Data and reporting requirements, including the use of accurate forecasting tools
  • Scheduling practices, flexibility, and incentives for accurate scheduling of VERs
  • Forward market structure and reliability commitment processes
  • Balancing authority area coordination and/or consolidation
  • Suitability of reserve products and reforms necessary to encourage the efficient use of reserve products
  • Capacity market reforms
  • Redispatch and curtailment practices necessary to accommodate VERs in real time

Comments are due on March 29, 2010. Interested parties may access the NOI in the eLibrary on FERC's Web site under Docket No. RM10-11-000.