The following is a summary of the Public Utility Commission of Texas’ October 28 meeting. The commissioners held an open meeting that ran more than 5 hours. There were several items worth noting from this meeting. One topic not discussed here involved the siting of a transmission line.
Project 52116 – SWEPCO (Vertically integrated utility in Northeast Texas) had reached a settlement with PUCT staff on maintenance of its rights of way. These types of settlements are very common and usually merit no comment in public meetings. But Commr. Glotfelty asked if the settlements were common and cautioned utilities that they should do better. He wanted to ensure that vegetation is maintained on the land that the PUCT has approved for their wires and poles and nearby landowners are safe. Chairman Lake echoed his sentiments. I would expect more scrutiny on all violations and settlements in the near future.
Project 52282 – BHP Property Management has filed a complaint against Engie as its REP during the February event. The complaint will apparently provide the PUCT an opportunity to view the handling of contractual obligations during the storm (“firm is firm” in a contract, force majeure, etc…). Commr. McAdams wrote a memo in the docket asking why Engie was both participating in the “uplift” securitization but continuing to pursue payment from this customer. Commrs moved to have the case referred to SOAH where more discovery and facts will be presented.
Project 46304 – This project relates to Southern Cross Transmission, a DC line extending from North Texas to a point of interconnection in or near Mississippi. Commr. Glotfelty noted that this project has been in process for 7 years. ERCOT is still working on a few items but is near completion. The PUCT must consider changes to the ERCOT export tariff (there is a standing tariff that makes the export of power uneconomical) for the project to proceed, as well as revisit transmission planning for DC ties. The commissioners encouraged interested parties to present updates on progress in the standing Project. Commissioners then instructed PUCT staff to draft an order along these lines and set a deadline for comments of 30 days after the order is posted.
PUCT staff has offered proposed language to commissioners for rules in response to new legislation. These involve “minor” matters that include eliminating the requirement that a REP be involved in selling power from car charging stations.
ERCOT interconnection queue – Heated debate ensued on the issue of moving dispatchable resources to the top of the ERCO interconnection queue. Commissioner McAdams submitted a memo that indicated his wish to prioritize dispatchable resources ahead of intermittent. For solar projects with battery storage (defined in a prior meeting as dispatchable), the battery capacity must be 75% or more of project capacity for prioritization to occur. Commissioner Glotfelty was concerned about delaying any projects that waited their turn in line, discouraging capital deployment in projects because of changes in policy, and the chance that a prioritized project is built in a part of the ERCOT system that may not help the grid. Commr. Glotfelty’s comment that “a megawatt is a megawatt” was challenged by Chairman Lake who said dispatchable megawatts are now more valuable. All agreed, however, that regulatory certainty is important.
Finally, Connie Carona with PUCT staff addressed challenges her staff has faced with customer complaints. The number of complaints increased this year due to the February event. Carona mentioned that many responses to complaints were late from market participants, with some responses not arriving at all. Commissioners deemed the problems unacceptable and fully supported staff pursuing violations.