On February 7, 2019, comments were submitted to FERC on the six RTO/ISO Order No. 841 (storage) compliance filings. FERC will need to address several issues regarding energy storage resources (ESRs), which are also distributed energy resources (DERs). This summary does not address issues that apply to all ESRs, such as limits on qualifying for capacity payments, transmission charges being properly excluded, PJM’s 10-hour rule, etc. Rather, it focuses on comments relating to ESRs that are also DERs or are quite likely to be DERs. For example, if an issue raised assumes that the ESR is co-located with retail load, that issue is likely to involve DER ESRs.

Overarching DER ESR Concerns

The comments relating to DER ESRs reflect many similar concerns – namely that the ISO/RTO is not including in its tariff sufficient information about matters relating to the state-federal jurisdictional overlap. Such alleged “omissions,” however, may reflect a lack of knowledge of the degree to which similar issues have been resolved in the non-ESR DERs context. Moreover, distribution owners (DO) (not the ISO/RTO) should be setting terms and conditions for DER ESRs’ usage of DO systems, in the first instance, subject to state commission or FERC oversight, if the DO is regulated.

Advanced Energy Economy, Tesla, and EDF Renewables all raise similar concerns that the ISOs and RTOs has not explained how DER and behind-the-meter (BTM) ESRs will access wholesale markets. This claim is somewhat odd in that DERs and BTM DERs have been accessing wholesale markets for decades in many states. Presumably, DER ESRs (whether BTM or in front-of the meter (IFOM)) will use the same processes and tools to interconnect and obtain service from their local utility to participate in the wholesale market as DERs use today. If such tools do not exist because of a lack of DERs, there are numerous states and DOs that can serve as models. There is nothing special or unusual about DERs participating in wholesale markets other than they (1) typically need to interconnect by asking their DO, rather than their ISO/RTO for interconnection service, (2) need to obtain wholesale distribution service (WDS) to sell some FERC-jurisdictional products to the market, and (3) DER ESRs will need WDS for charging purposes (when charging to resell). Only item (3) is unique to ESRs.

Comments such as those submitted by DTE Electric Company (DTE) indicate that some DOs evidently have not had to address market DER participation and are not yet prepared for such participation. For example, DTE is concerned with MISO providing dispatch instructions to DER ESRs due to a lack of visibility. DTE also is concerned with conflicting directions being issued by the DO and MISO. Yet, these are all issues any DER participating in MISO’s wholesale markets today would have to deal with, regardless of Order No. 841. Where a DO is providing a state-jurisdictional service, it can turn to its state commission (or if unregulated, to itself) to propose appropriate rules and protections; where a DO is providing a FERC-jurisdictional WDS, it has the right to set the terms and conditions for such service in the first instance. FERC-jurisdictional interconnection service for DER ESRs, largely will have to abide by the pro forma SGIA, as perhaps modified to reflect the ISO/RTO’s existence.

Advanced Energy Economy also raises in all dockets a concern about an ESRs’ opportunity costs where the ESR is co-located with retail load. Advanced Energy Economy argues that “opportunity costs are a key component of an ESR’s reference level” and that certain ESRs are used to ensure that a given [retail] customer’s demand does not exceed a certain threshold level. FERC, however, in developing market mitigation for ESRs should not consider an ESR’s role regarding managing the retail demand charge assessed a co-located retail customer. Wholesale and retail market considerations should be separated. FERC’s concern is wholesale markets, an ESR should not be permitted to set its wholesale opportunity cost based on retail rates.

Some of the more specific concerns of DERs and DOs are discussed below.
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Some states permit end-users to “obtain” energy generated at a remote location, without requiring such end-users to pay the utility to which they and the generator are interconnected for the delivery and ancillary services required to move the energy to the end-user’s load. Such “virtual net metering” is a key element of some community (or shared) solar programs. Examples of end-users that pay no delivery charges for energy delivered from “off-site” or “remote” generation are reflected in an Oregon commission’s recent May 23, 2018 order and in Minnesota, where the local utility continues to credit customers of community solar gardens at the full retail rate. In contrast, (most) other end-users must pay delivery charges when consuming energy delivered over the utility’s wires, whether the energy they consume is largely produced a block away or hundreds of miles away. (On-site net-metering programs also may result in free delivery service for end-users, but that issue is not the focus of this post.) The focus of this post is whether a state or state utility commission may lawfully mandate that energy produced at one location can be deemed to have been consumed by an end-user at another location without that end-user having to pay for delivery service if the utility’s wires are used for such delivery. As discussed below, there are a variety of legal grounds on which virtual net-metering laws, regulations, or tariffs could be challenged by utilities, customers to whom delivery costs may be shifted, and competing generators as relates to the free (or reduced cost) delivery service aspect of virtual net metering.
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Based on the two-day FERC Technical Conference on DERs, where varying opinions were presented on a variety of technical and operational issues relating to DERs and DER aggregation, the following are overarching takeaways that the Commission and its Staff should consider before taking the next step on DERs’ and/or DER aggregations’ participation in wholesale markets.

Those persons that believe that the Federal Power Act left exclusive jurisdiction over local distribution facilities (and everything that occurs on such facilities) to the states have been told that they are wrong. The courts have told them they are wrong. FERC has told them they are wrong. Yet, whenever FERC mentions the distribution system, state regulators and others object vociferously that FERC is intruding into state-jurisdictional matters. Indeed, the Commission’s Final Rule on Storage, which assumes that many if not most storage devices will be connected to distribution, actually raises no meaningful jurisdictional issues that have not already been addressed by the courts. Nonetheless, several rehearings raising jurisdictional issues related to storage devices located on the distribution system were filed in response.

Successful appeals are unlikely on jurisdictional grounds, assuming FERC does not appease the states as it has on other occasions, such as with regards to non-QF interconnections to distribution. NARUC and some utilities have objected to certain aspects of the Final Rule that permit participation by storage resources interconnected to distribution in wholesale markets. FERC jurisdiction over all wholesale sales in interstate commerce is well-established. And, FERC jurisdiction over the usage of a distribution system to engage in wholesale market transactions rests on FERC precedent more than two decades old. FERC jurisdiction over wholesale distribution service was affirmed in New York v. FERC, and Detroit Edison Co. v. FERC.
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