Watts Up With That FERC Carbon Pricing Policy Statement

Guess post by Roger Caiazza

On October 5 Anthony posted my article on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) technical conference regarding Carbon Pricing in Organized Wholesale Electricity Markets held on September 30, 2020.  On October 15, 2020 FERC proposed a policy statement to “clarify that it has jurisdiction over organized wholesale electric market rules that incorporate a state-determined carbon price in those markets. The proposed policy statement also seeks to encourage regional electric market operators to explore and consider the benefits of establishing such rules.” This post alerts WUWT readers to the opportunity to provide comments on that policy statement.

Policy Statement Comments

According to the FERC press release:

The proposed policy statement follows the September 30, 2020, technical conference at which participants identified a diverse range of potential benefits from proposals to integrate state-determined carbon pricing into the regional markets. Those benefits include the development of technology-neutral, transparent price signals within the markets and providing market certainty to support investment. 

States are taking the lead in efforts to address climate change by adopting policies to reduce their GHG emissions. Currently, 11 states impose some version of carbon pricing, and other entities, including the regional markets, are examining this approach. Participants at the technical conference said carbon pricing is an example of an efficient market-based tool to incorporate state public policies into regional markets without diminishing state authority.

Today’s proposal finds that regional market rules incorporating a state-determined carbon price can fall within the Commission’s jurisdiction over wholesale rates. However, determining whether the rules proposed in any particular Federal Power Act (FPA) section 205 filing do fall under FERC jurisdiction will be based on the specific facts and circumstances. The Commission is seeking comment on the appropriate information to consider when reviewing such a filing, including:

1. How do the relevant market design considerations change depending on the manner in which the state or states determine the carbon price? How will that price be updated?

2. How does the FPA section 205 proposal ensure price transparency and enhance price formation? 

3. How will the carbon price or prices be reflected in locational marginal pricing? 

4. How will the incorporation of the state-determined carbon price into the regional market affect dispatch? Will the state-determined carbon price affect how the regional market co-optimizes energy and ancillary services? 

5. Does the proposal result in economic or environmental “leakage,” in which production may shift to more costly generators in other states, without regard to their carbon emissions? How does the proposal address any such leakage? 

The Commission invites comments on this Proposed Policy Statement by November 16, 2020 and reply comments by December 1, 2020. Comments must refer to Docket No. AD20-14-000, and must include the commenter’s name, the organization they represent, if applicable, and their address in their comments.

Comments, identified by docket number [AD20-14-000], may be filed electronically at http://www.ferc.gov in acceptable native applications and print-to-PDF, but not in scanned or picture format. For those unable to file electronically, comments may be filed by mail or hand-delivery to: Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Secretary of the Commission, 888 First Street, NE, Washington, DC 20426.

Policy Statement

If you want to participate in a process where your comments could affect policy I encourage you to read the policy statement itself.  I will summarize its contents below.

The policy statement starts with a background section.  It notes that states are currently leading the charge to address climate change by adopting policies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and frequently focus on the electric sector.  It notes that:

Carbon pricing has emerged as an important, market-based tool in state efforts to reduce GHG emissions, including efforts to reduce GHG emissions from the electricity sector. In this proposed policy statement, we use the term “carbon pricing” to include both “price-based” methods adopted by states that directly establish a price on GHG emissions as well as “quantity-based” approaches adopted by states that do so indirectly through, for example, a cap-and-trade system.

The policy statement notes that even though the “Commission is not an environmental regulator” they still have to address proposals that incorporate a state-determined carbon price into Regional Transmission Operators (RTO) or Independent System Operators (ISO) markets.  They conclude that carbon pricing is not unlike other filings that they address so this should be no different.

In the discussion section they “clarify that the Commission has the jurisdiction over RTO/ISO market rules that incorporate a state-determined carbon price in those markets.”  Then they go on to argue that “it is the policy of this Commission to encourage efforts to incorporate a state-determined carbon price in RTO/ISO markets”.  I am not going to try to interpret their legal arguments justifying this policy. 

In the sub-section titled “Commission Encouragement of Efforts to Incorporate a State-Determined Carbon Price into RTO/ISO Markets” the policy statement says:

As noted, on September 30, 2020, the Commission held a technical conference on the integration of state-determined carbon pricing in RTO/ISO markets. Participants at the conference identified a diverse range of potential benefits that could arise from such a proposal. Those benefits include the development of technology-neutral, transparent price signals within RTO/ISO markets and providing market certainty to support investment. In addition, participants explained that carbon pricing is an example of an efficient market-based tool that incorporates state public policies into RTO/ISO markets, without in any way diminishing state authority. 

We agree that proposals to incorporate a state-determined carbon price in RTO/ISO markets could, if properly designed and implemented, significantly improve the efficiency of those markets. Accordingly, we propose to make it the policy of this Commission to encourage efforts by RTOs/ISOs and their stakeholders—including States, market participants, and consumers—to explore establishing wholesale market rules that incorporate state-determined carbon prices in RTO/ISO markets.

The discussion concludes that:

The Commission will review any FPA section 205 filing that proposes to establish wholesale market rules that incorporate a state-determined carbon price in RTO/ISO markets based on the particular facts and circumstances presented in that proceeding.  Nevertheless, certain questions and issues are likely to arise in any such filing.

They specifically ask for comment on the questions listed in the press release quotation above that are the “appropriate information and considerations the Commission should take into account or whether different or additional considerations may be or must be taken into account” to “determine whether an RTO/ISO’s market rules that incorporate a state-determined carbon price in RTO/ISO markets are just, reasonable and not unduly discriminatory or preferential.”

Conclusion

For the denizens of this blog this is your opportunity to comment on something that could affect policy.  I suggest that those who are skeptical of the value of GHG emission reduction policies concentrate on whether a state-determined carbon price in RTO/ISO markets can be just, reasonable and not unduly discriminatory or preferential. 

I intend to personally comment on the concerns I raised in my personal blog post on the FERC technical conference.   The technical conference convinced FERC commissioners that carbon-pricing was an “efficient” market-based tool but nobody asked and no one proved that they work.  In my opinion the first rule of efficient policy is that it works.  I believe that those who support carbon pricing on theoretical economic grounds are overlooking or are unaware of practical issues I have raised.  Cynic that I am, I think the primary value to FERC and the RTO/ISO operators is that the carbon price makes their lives easier.  That it will have significant impacts on consumers and not do anything for the climate is somebody else’s problem.

Roger Caiazza blogs on New York energy and environmental issues at Pragmatic Environmentalist of New York.  This represents his opinion and not the opinion of any of his previous employers or any other company with which he has been associated.

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October 20, 2020 at 08:06AM

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