The nation's top electric grid watchdog is carefully considering the recommendations made in the Energy Department's grid study issued late Wednesday night, according to the chairman of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
"This important DOE staff report highlights many activities that the commission is carefully considering, including examining ways to enhance wholesale electric capacity markets and improve price formation in those markets, to increase electric and gas coordination, and to assure bulk power system reliability and resilience," said FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee on Thursday.
"The commission will remain focused on these and other issues that are critical to maintain the nation's competitive wholesale electric markets and keep the lights on," he continued.
Energy Department officials briefed FERC and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation Wednesday morning ahead of the study's release.
Chatterjee said this month that he would look for ways to help coal and nuclear power plants by examining ways to tweak the wholesale electricity markets the commission oversees to value the reliability they offer the power grid.
"I believe that generation, including our existing coal and nuclear fleet, need to be properly compensated to recognize the value they provide to the system," Chatterjee said Aug. 14.
Wednesday's study looks to Chatterjee's commission to open a new regulatory process on price formation in the interstate electric markets to do that. The coal and nuclear industries have been lobbying the commission since late last year for it to change how grid operators value power plants.
FERC has been essentially closed over the past six months because of a lack of a quorum caused by a lack of members. It requires at least three of the five commissioner posts to be filled. The bare minimum was met about a week ago with the swearing in of Chatterjee and Republican Robert Powelson.
Powelson said Thursday morning that it has been like "drinking from the firehose" during his first week at the post to get up to speed on FERC's backlog of work.
"And I'm proud to report within a week's time, we've gotten some orders out the door. So FERC, as I like to say, is back in business," Powelson said on the commission's podcast.
In addition to regulating the electric grid, FERC is the primary gateway for approving major interstate natural gas and oil pipelines, in addition to gas export terminals.
"I like to tell people over 1,500 cases per year come through the FERC with close to $500 billion of infrastructure spending, so a lot of these projects have been on hold, a lot of these projects have gone through tremendous rigor and review processes," Powelson said. "And now with the quorum restored were getting back up and running and making decisions around some of these big infrastructure cases right now."