This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

October 25, 2006

Federal Regulators Propose to Approve 83 Reliability Standards

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a proposed rulemaking on October 19th that will approve 83 new reliability standards for the U.S. power grid. The rulemaking is part of an effort to create mandatory and enforceable reliability standards for the nation's electrical transmission system prior to next summer. Back in July, FERC named the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) as the nation's official Electric Reliability Organization. In its new role, NERC proposed 107 new standards to FERC, which accepted 83 of them. However, FERC notes that many of those 83 standards require additional work or clarification. Regarding the other 24 standards, FERC says they require regional reliability organizations to first develop regional standards before FERC can fully evaluate them. The reliability effort is mainly a response to the 2003 power outage, for which DOE and Natural Resources Canada recently issued a final report. See the FERC press release, the Notice of the Proposed Rulemaking (PDF 1.3 MB), the DOE press release, and the final outage report (PDF 853 KB). Download Adobe Reader.

In late September, FERC took another action to ensure electric reliability: it approved an agreement among the nation's electric utilities to share spare electric transformers in the event of a terrorist strike on the transmission system. FERC lauded the agreement and encouraged utilities to expand it to include natural disasters. See the FERC press release and the full decision (PDF 80 KB).

While reliability standards are expected to help avoid power outages, NERC's first power assessment in its role of the Electric Reliability Organization sees a long-term threat from a lack of new generating capacity. According to the NERC report, U.S. electrical demand is expected to increase by 19 percent over the next decade, but currently confirmed power projects will increase the nation's generating capacity by only 6 percent. NERC warns that dropping capacity margins could threaten power reliability in many parts of the United States. However, it remains open to debate if the NERC report adequately assesses the potential for energy efficiency and renewable and distributed generation sources, which can often be installed with short lead times. See the NERC press release (PDF 110 KB) and the full report (PDF 1.1 MB).