U.S. Senator Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) sent a letter to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Neil Chatterjee expressing his concern over the reliability and resilience of our nation’s electricity system. 

The text of the letter is as follows:

Chairman Chatterjee:

I am writing with continued concern for the reliability and resilience of our Nation’s electricity system.  While consumers currently experience relatively stable service, the system has become unnecessarily complex with less margin of error.  As we have seen from a number of polar vortex events and most recently summer heatwaves, notably in Texas, smaller and smaller reserve margins coupled with intermittent generating resources and more reliance on natural gas are straining the system when people need it the most.  

Electric generation resources are changing for a number of reasons.  We are seeing an influx of intermittent generating resources while on-demand generators are being retired.  This rapid influx is central to the risks we face today.  To the common consumer, ignorance is bliss as long as electricity is being delivered.  This sense of security has been fostered by our previously developed dispatchable resources from which we are still benefiting.  Today, that stability is being disrupted by the influx of intermittent power generators.

I am thankful for your interest in this subject and the Commission’s call on the Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs) and the Independent System Operators (ISOs) for information on resilience issues.  However, these groups are preoccupied with the system they are handed rather than initiating necessary changes to make the markets deliver without depending on must-run agreements.  Recent headline weather events, along with cybersecurity concerns, seemed to be the main focus of the RTOs/ISOs comments to you, but they failed to address even the day-to-day challenges of intermittent resources, such as a rapid decline in wind.  

I fully appreciate the desire for resource neutral policy, but there are neutral resource characteristics which are being taken for granted under current market designs and rules.  A power provider in my state has suggested new stand-by and ramp products to handle the volatile supply caused by intermittent resources or performing a multi-day unit commitment versus only day-ahead.  Additionally, the practice of allowing intermittent generators to go penalty free when their day-ahead commitment is not fulfilled should be ended.  This is something dispatchable generators are not afforded.  The North American Electric Reliability Corporation has suggested encouraging firm supply contracts, multiple pipeline connections, and dual-fuel capability as it relates to the “just-in-time” nature of natural gas.

These and other fuel-neutral reforms will not significantly shift the changing resource mix, but they are within the Commission’s authority and will result in more reasonable markets with greater reliability and resilience than the path we are currently on.  The consequences of inaction could be catastrophic.  Therefore, I urge you without delay to continue moving forward on this very important issue.

Sincerely,

Kevin Cramer

U.S. Senator            

cc:

Commissioner Richard Glick

Commissioner Bernard L. McNamee