Gas-electric issue may have simple answer, says US FERC's Clark
Washington (Platts)--17Dec2012/415 pm EST/2115 GMT
While it is too early to say what the US Federal Energy Regulatory
Commission can or should do to ensure generators have access to sufficient
supplies of natural gas, the complex issue may have a very simple answer --
building more pipelines, FERC's newest member Tony Clark said Monday.
"It is interesting to me that on one hand, it is a complex challenge,"
Clark said. "On the other, at least for some regions of the country, if you
boil it down to its simplest there may be new capacity that needs to be
brought on and somebody has to pay for it. And that is kind of the same
challenge we have always dealt with in regulation," Clark said in an
FERC is concerned that the electric industry's increasing reliance on
gas for fuel could affect electric reliability, especially during peak demand
periods during the winter. The problem is especially acute in regions like
New England, where gas pipelines are operating at or near capacity.
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The commission held five regional conferences in August to gather input
on steps that could be taken to improve coordination between the sectors.
The agency in November unveiled a suite of efforts on the issue,
including a pair of technical conferences on communications and scheduling,
and guidance on allowable communications during emergencies. FERC also
required regional power market operators to report twice next year to outline
their efforts on coordination.
Right now, it is unclear how much the regions will fix and how much FERC
will have to step in, Clark said. "I think it is probably too early to tell,"
For example, the challenge with aligning the gas and electric supply
schedules is that the interstate gas pipeline system is a national industry
and the electric industry is a patchwork of different independent system
operators and market constructs, Clark said.
"If we were to 'fix' the New England issue, imposing something on the
pipeline industry affects the entire nation, which makes it particularly
challenging. ... But if we continually see that there are medium and
longer-term issues that aren't getting solved, then I guess we have to look
at what we need to do."
Clark, a Republican, joined the commission in June. He was formerly
Chairman of the North Dakota Public Service Commission. He said he may have
to recuse himself from some gas-electric coordination votes for one year, due
to his prior work with the National Association of Regulatory Utility
Commissioners and the Organization of MISO States.
--Kate Winston, firstname.lastname@example.org
--Edited by Jeff Barber, email@example.com