Who Needs to Submit a Baseline: As November 2, 2021 looms (and is far scarier than Halloween), owners of QFs and DERs may be thinking, “what me worry?” But the looming due date for Order No. 860 baseline submissions can impact some QFs and some DERs. Although it is perhaps almost too late for those subject to, but unaware of their obligations to, make timely Order No. 860 submissions, steps can be taken now by those QFs and DERs with market based-rate (MBR) authority.
For a variety of reasons, some QFs have MBR authority: they may no longer sell under PURPA and are too large to be exempt from FPA Section 205 regulation; they may have MBR authority as a safety measure in case they fall out of QF compliance; they may be concerned about losing QF status due to changes in the 1-mile rule; among other reasons. As to DERs, while many DERs are renewables and sized to be exempt from FPA Section 205 regulation and thus Order No. 860, some DERs, such as in front of the meter, stand-alone storage, will be “Sellers” with Order No. 860 obligations. Determining if a QF or DER has an Order No. 860 obligation is simple, does the entity that owns/controls the asset have an MBR Tariff on file? If yes, an Order No. 860 baseline obligation exists, even if the entity has never made a sale subject to FPA Section 205 regulation. FERC keeps a list of entities with MBR on this page (look at right side of page for link to “Electric Utilities With Approved Market-Based Rate Authority (Includes Contact Information)”).
For those QFs/DERs who belatedly realize that they have an Order No. 860 obligation, if they cannot gather the data required by Order No. 860 and learn how to submit it in a matter of two weeks, an extension request may be an option. Some QFs, particularly those whose sales are all exempt under 18 C.F.R. Section 292.601, may want to reconsider whether they need MBR authority at all and seek to cancel their MBR Tariffs effective on or before November 1, 2021. Although, such Seller may be technically out of compliance with Order No. 860, as long as the Commission grants the cancellation date, FERC may choose not to demand compliance between November 2nd and the effective date of the cancellation. (This option applies to anyone with an unnecessary or unused MBR Tariff.) Other Order No. 860 issues relating to QFs and DERs are discussed below.
QFs with MBR Tariffs and Order No. 860 Long-Term Firm Sales Data. If a QF is a Seller with an Order No. 860 obligation, its most important determination is whether its long-term firm sales, if any, are reportable. The answer is yes, unless the sales are made under PURPA (“made under PURPA” seemingly would include exempt sales made under 18 C.F.R. Section 292.601). Although a QF’s PPA may best indicate whether its sales are made under PURPA, QFs with MBR Tariffs presumably should “marry” their Order No. 860 and EQR reporting. A disconnect between the two would be obvious in an audit situation.
Data Obligations Relating to Long-Term Firm Purchases from QFs and DERs. As those reporting Sellers who are making long-term firm purchases from QFs and DERs, they can save themselves significant time and effort if: 1) they know whether the QFs and DERs selling long-term firm power to them are selling such power under PURPA (as opposed to Section 205 of the FPA); or 2) their purchases can be treated as behind-the-meter purchases. Long-term firm purchases do not need to be reported by Sellers if the sale is under PURPA or considered to be behind the meter. Verifying whether a QF is selling under PURPA may be as easy as verifying that the seller lacks an MBR Tariff. If a QF seller does have an MBR Tariff, again EQR is a logical place to determine whether the seller considers a sale reportable to FERC. As to DERs that are not also QFs (likely a small minority of DERs), those that lack MBR Tariffs presumably are engaged in a net metering program where the energy is not being purchased at all; any sales are subject to PURPA; and/or there is no long-term firm purchase in any case.
Data Obligations Relating to Sellers Whose Generation Portfolios Include QFs and DERs. Sellers with both large and small generation portfolios, particularly those Sellers that are also transmission owners, often have no reason to obtain QF status for small generators that they own that could qualify as QFs. For example, such Sellers may install PV in their own substations. Some Sellers own and lease 1 MW and smaller renewable resources that are QFs. As these Sellers populate their generation asset data for Order No. 860, they need to be aware of whether they can omit certain generation under the behind the meter or QF exemptions from reporting assets, thus saving time and resources. Presumably, such generation always was omitted from Asset Appendices historically, but Order No. 860 should prompt a closer look at what is excludable, as the more assets that are reportable, the greater the reporting burden on the Seller.
A Final Note. As with the rollout of EQR and eTariff, Order No. 860 remains itself a work in progress. Sellers should be patient as the system evolves and the data collection “rules” are documented more comprehensively. As discussed above, there are many nuances as to data collection, even as to the small corner of Order No. 860 relating to QFs and DERs. Also, as the first changes in status and triennials are submitted, the FERC-generated Asset Appendices may not resemble the Asset Appendices previously submitted until further refinements are made by the Commission. For example, an Asset Appendix that includes the same exact vertical asset multiple times should not be cause for alarm, as the data collection process requires all Sellers under common ownership to report certain vertical assets.