Electricity Markets

Association’s Patterson emphasizes importance of coalitions

When it comes to a wide range of significant electric policy issues, the American Public Power Association sees value in partnering with other trade groups and industry participants to make its voice heard on issues such as transmission costs, wholesale markets and cybersecurity, said Delia Patterson, Senior Vice President, Advocacy & Communications and General Counsel at the Association.

She made her comments at a Women In Energy breakfast held on Oct. 16. at an Energy Bar Association meeting in Washington, D.C.

Patterson said that when it comes to various power industry issues, her first thought is how can the Association “align ourselves with others in the industry on an issue – we tend to do better and I think anybody tends to do better when you’re in a coalition.”

She said that “it’s very important for all of us to know where various stakeholders are on different issues. You just never know where you’re going to find support.” The Association needs to know which parties “within the beltway and outside the beltway that are on the same page with us,” Patterson said.

“Although we feel like we’re a little different as public power, we do have a lot in common with our IOU [investor-owned utility] and co-op brethren,” Patterson noted.

“We’re not aligned on every issue, but there are many issues that we’re aligned on,” the Association official said.

Patterson said that the Association is usually on the same page with the Edison Electric Institute, which represents IOUs, and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, when it comes to cybersecurity issues. When it comes to issues tied to the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, “we’re similarly aligned.”

In the area of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission jurisdiction, the three trade groups are on the same page with respect to FERC’s Order No. 841. That decision adopted rules aimed at removing barriers to the participation of energy storage resources in wholesale power markets operated by regional transmission organizations and independent system operators.

The Association, NRECA, EEI, the National Association of Regulatory Commissioners and American Municipal Power are jointly appealing Order No. 841 before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on jurisdictional grounds.

“Something like FERC jurisdiction – that, to me, is an existential threat to what we believe in, what we control and local authority,” Patterson said. She knew even before asking Emily Fisher, general counsel and corporate secretary at EEI, and Randy Elliott, regulatory counsel at NRECA, that “they would be on board for appealing that order.”

Meanwhile, the Association, NRECA and EEI agree on the need for reforms of the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA). FERC in September proposed to modernize its regulations under PURPA.

“We work really well together with NRECA on PMA and TVA issues,” she said. The Association and NRECA earlier this year voiced opposition to renewed federal efforts to sell the transmission assets of three federal Power Marketing Administrations (PMAs) and the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) transmission assets and change the current cost-based rates structure for all four of the PMAs.

When it comes to wholesale power markets, the Association is generally aligned with NRECA, consumer advocates, states, end users and renewable energy supporters, Patterson noted.

The Association is also in agreement with NRECA, consumer advocates and end users with respect to transmission issues. In August, the two trade groups were joined by more than 40 entities in sending a letter to FERC that said the agency should strive to ensure that transmission costs remain at a reasonable level for consumers as it weighs possible changes to its transmission incentives and return on equity (ROE) policies.

In a recent blog, Patterson wrote that the “robust pace of transmission development over the past decade indicates that there is no need for FERC to loosen the incentive purse strings now to get transmission projects built.”

Patterson told the group of energy attorneys that “it’s important to understand generally where different folks are situated within the industry.” If attorneys in the energy sector are working on a particular issue, they should think about “who am I likely to be aligned with? Could we form a coalition?”