LPPC In The News

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Utility Dive

Utility Industry Casts Doubt on FERC’s Proposed Cyber Standards

September 25, 2015

By Robert Walton

Dive Brief:

  • The utility industry is pushing back on some proposals made by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to address cybersecurity weaknesses. A coalition of industry groups doubt FERC's authority to make some changes, questioning whether others are necessary, Fierce Energy reports.
  • FERC has been trying to address cybersecurity across the utility supply chain, but a broad group of power providers say regulators lack authority to oversee third-party providers on the grid.
  • Moreover, the coalition told FERC that its revised critical infrastructure protection standards already address many security issues, and that regulators may be overstating the risk involved.

Dive Insight:

Over the summer, federal regulators laid out a series of modifications to critical infrastructure protection reliability standards designed to address growing concerns that the nation's bulk generation and transmission systems are vulnerable to cyberattacks. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) wanted the utility industry to develop new security protocols, including standards for data flowing across unsecured third-party networks.

But in comments filed this week by a broad range of utility groups, the industry cast doubt on FERC's authority to regulate some areas and said the issue overall may be blown out of proportion.

"While the Trade Associations agree that CIP and cybersecurity risks form a high priority strategic matter for the electric industry, no events or disturbances have taken place that indicate a problem or emerging pattern or trend," the group told FERC.

The coalition includes the American Public Power Association, the Edison Electric Institute,

Electric Power Supply Association, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Electricity Consumers Resource Council, Transmission Access Policy Study Group, and the Large Public Power Council.

The groups also said FERC's CIP V5 standards already "address a broad range of supply chain issues," and cast doubt on the commission's ability to regulate third-party providers which are rapidly becoming a major player on the grid.

"The commission has no direct oversight authority over third-party suppliers or vendors and, in addition, cannot indirectly assert authority on them through jurisdictional entities," the groups said. FERC's rationale behind its claim to regulate them has no limits, the group said, and "without such limits, the Commission ostensibly could seek to regulate under the blanket rationale of 'supply chain' any number of areas, including fuel procurement or labor relations."

In July, Lloyd's of London issued a report aimed at informing the insurance industry as to the potential impacts of a widespread attack on the U.S. power grid. The analysis showed the total economic loss could range from $243 billion up to $1 trillion in the most damaging scenarios.

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The Energy Times

Carbon Plan’s Uneven Impact

May 6, 2015

By John Di Stasio


The utility sector is undergoing significant change driven by a variety of factors and it’s this transition that keeps me engaged, learning and sharing. I recently joined the Large Public Power Council, LPPC, as president, to focus on this transition.

The LPPC, established in 1987, represents the largest asset-owning public power systems across the United States plus Puerto Rico.

The LPPC members, also members of the American Public Power Association, are focused on reliability, affordability, environmental stewardship and local governance. We collectively serve a population of 30 million people. Our members own over 86,000 megawatts of generation, nearly enough to serve two states the size of California, and we own 35,000 circuit miles of high voltage transmission. We are large asset-owning utilities.

Our members are uniquely impacted by policy and regulation that seek to transform the generating asset mix, increase regulatory requirements and complexity, eliminate our financing tools, or erode the value of assets paid for by our consumers.

We respect the authority of policy makers in defining the societal outcomes for the energy sector, but want to be sure that those outcomes don’t also come with a level of prescription that limit our flexibility and commitment to the communities that we serve.

There are several issues of importance for LPPC including improvements to cyber and physical security and resiliency, retention of tax exempt finance for public purpose infrastructure, our support for energy efficiency and emerging technologies, transmission policies and organized market rules.

But the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, at present, is our focus of attention. We are at the table to be sure that we are creating a path forward that strikes a necessary balance between reliability, affordability and environmental stewardship.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan is the most transformative national energy regulation ever proposed. If implemented, as modeled by EPA, it will have a profound and uneven impact as the entire generation supply mix and regional power flows will change.

Many members of the Large Public Power Council question the EPA’s authority to advance such a rulemaking, but we also recognize the importance of getting it right as it advances, so we are focused on workability. Our preference would have been for Congress to consider these issues first.

Relative to workability we think EPA needs to consider that the electric grid and power flows don’t function along state boundaries so an overlay of the state by state air regulation hierarchy is certain to have problems in implementation.

More time is needed to get this right regionally in concert with the physical characteristics of the electric grid.

The interim goals front load compliance to an extent that many systems need to achieve greater than 80 percent of their eventual compliance by 2020.                                       

Reliability of the interconnected grid needs to be considered in advance of finalization of the rule and commencement of investments to comply

The baseline assumptions need to be revisited. Assuming that under construction nuclear plants are already complete is extremely optimistic and unnecessarily costly for those states pursuing new nuclear plants.

The time required to finance, site and construct new infrastructure is many times greater than the assumptions in the proposed rule.

Our 25 members are unique since they mirror the diversity of our nation geographically, politically, by resource mix, income and education. One thing our members all share is a commitment to the consumers that own and govern our systems and the communities that we serve. It is truly an honor to contribute to that mission.

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Inside Energy

Energy Efficiency May Be Bipartisan Winner

January 2, 2015

By Jordan Wirfs-Brock

When it comes to U.S. energy consumption, transportation and power plants leap to mind as top power users. Buildings, though, are not far behind. Commercial buildings account for one-fifth of our energy use. Much of that is pure waste, leaking from poorly-insulated walls or lights left on when no one is around. Energy efficiency is one of the few issues with support from both Republicans and Democrats, as well as private industry. In the new GOP-controlled Congress, the timing for energy efficiency legislation may finally be right.

Visiting the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado is like stepping into the future. Part of the U.S. Department of Energy, NREL is the country’s largest net-zero energy building: It produces more energy on-site than it uses.

A lot of that is due to energy efficiency.

NREL’s main office building, which is 360,000 square feet and houses 1,300 employees, is a test bed for technologies that help us do more with less. The ventilation system pipes in fresh air from outside. The windows have what look like shiny metallic Venetian blinds that direct sunlight up onto the ceiling. From the shape of the stairways down to the position of the power strips, every detail has been carefully selected to minimize waste. The building does have cutting-edge technology, like windows with glass that automatically darkens. But the rest are “things that everyone can do. Best practices that are available to everyone that has a building,” said Shanti Pless, an energy efficiency engineer at NREL.

These practices could be a lot more common if a bill known as Shaheen-Portman passes through Congress. Shaheen-Portman addresses energy efficiency for federal government facilities, commercial buildings, and rental properties in a pretty gentle way, lining out a number of voluntary programs and guidelines. It does not include mandates, or binding requirements.

Broadly bipartisan, the bill is sponsored by Senators Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat from New Hampshire, and Rob Portman, a Republican of Ohio. One version, introduced in the Senate in 2014, included 10 bipartisan amendments. It also received a letter of support from 200 companies and organizations, including the Large Public Power Council and the American Institute of Architects. A slimmed-down version of it passed the House in 2014. Despite Shaheen-Portman’s broad support and money-saving potential, the bill has failed in the Senate.

Even without mandates or strict requirements, federal energy efficiency policy could have a big impact. The American Center for an Energy-Efficient Economy, ACEEE, estimates that a policy like Shaheen-Portman could create 190,000 jobs and save the government $16 billion dollars in the next 15 years.

Another way mandate-free legislation could improve energy efficiency across the board is by creating markets for new technologies. Tom Plant, Senior Policy Analyst with the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University, says that the federal government can drive the adoption of new, efficient technologies and practices.

“There’s lots of great ideas, great technologies that prove themselves out commercially,” Plant said. “But if they have no market, there’s no business.”

The federal government is large enough, and has enough infrastructure and buying power, to create that market. For example, Shaheen-Portman requires federal agencies to measure the current energy use of their data centers, then come up with a plan to reduce it. If government agencies were to upgrade all of their data centers to be more efficient, it would create new demand for that technology. That demand would drive competition, ultimately making the data center upgrades cheaper and more accessible for the private sector.

Shaheen-Portman was first introduced in the Senate in 2011, then again in 2013 and 2014. It never made it to the floor for a vote, although it got very close. Ironically, its popularity has been responsible for its downfall.

Suzanne Watson, policy director at ACEEE, said that in a deadlocked Senate, “Efficiency is one of the few things, if any, that could actually get through.” If, that is, it could “ride on its own, as opposed to being utilized as a vehicle for what I might call poison pills.”

When Republicans saw Shaheen-Portman, a bill that had a legitimate chance in an otherwise deadlocked Senate, they tried to hang unrelated issues onto it, like expediting a vote on the Keystone XL pipeline. Some issues were not even energy related, like an attempt to delay aspects of Obamacare. With those amendments, Democrats never allowed the bill to come to a vote.

While Congress stalled, many private businesses have pushed forward. Pinnacol Assurance, a workers’ compensation firm in Denver, has made upgrades like motion-sensor-controlled lighting and LEDs in the parking garage. Since Shaheen-Portman was first introduced, Pinnacol has reduced its electricity bill by 20 percent, saving $91,000 annually. They have plans to install a new data center in the first quarter of 2015. Paul Doughty, facilities manager at Pinnacol, says local, state and federal efficiency policies have not driven their practices. “We stay ahead of what’s required,” said Doughty. “We want to do what’s right.”

Federal energy efficiency policy could make technologies – like the ones Pinnacol will need to upgrade its data center – cheaper and more accessible for the private sector. The federal government is the single biggest energy user in the country, which is why efficiency activists believe Congressional action could do better to push energy efficiency more…well…efficiently.

Suzanne Watson of ACEEE is optimistic about Shaheen-Portman’s future. Although in 2015, Watson said, it might look a little different. In the new Republican-controlled Congress, energy efficiency may ride on the back of the very issue that kept it down last year: Keystone XL. Or, it could be bundled into a Republican-led “all of the above” energy policy that includes controversial topics – like natural gas exports – to sweeten the deal for Democrats.

Update, January 6, 2015: As the 114th Congress convenes this week, a vote on the Keystone XL pipeline is the first order of business. POLITICO reports that Senator Jeanne Shaheen will not offer the Shaheen-Portman efficiency bill as an amendment to the Keystone legislation. In a statement to POLITICO, Shaheen said: “It should be passed separately on its own merits, and I oppose adding it to unrelated Keystone XL pipeline legislation and potentially subjecting it to a veto.”

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