States call for ISO-NE governance reforms in push to reform power markets
Having a seat at the table to discuss issues impacting wholesale electricity markets does little good when ISO New England maintains unilateral authority to propose market reforms over sovereign states’ objections, New England state utility regulators told the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on May 25.
“At this point, we can talk all we want together, but if ISO-NE chooses not to listen to us and go forward, it just turns into a fight before all of you at FERC,” Maine Public Utilities Commission Chairman Philip Bartlett said at FERC’s second technical conference aimed at modernizing the wholesale electricity markets. The May 25 forum homed in on ISO-NE’s markets.
A key message relayed by the state regulators was that the states, as sovereign entities, should not be relegated to the same standing as stakeholders in ISO-NE. Further, they contended there should be a greater impetus or even a legal basis to obligate ISO-NE to work harder to find compromises with the states, rather than rely on its unilateral authority to make Federal Power Act Section 205 filings with FERC to overcome disagreements.
The New England states “don’t think with a hive mind; we are six individual states, and when we collectively get together through a [New England States Committee on Electricity] statement or through a position, there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work that happens to get us there,” Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities Chairman Matthew Nelson said. “It’s critical that opposition from a NESCOE majority means something to what we’re trying to achieve. We do not want to bring problems to FERC’s doorsteps.”
Vermont Department of Public Service Commissioner June Tierney acknowledged that at times unpopular decisions have to be made and the ability to act unilaterally may be warranted.
“So if the ISO needs to act unilaterally or feels it needs to act unilaterally, there ought to be a readout of how they reached that decision, why specifically they rejected the states’ arguments or the states’ proposals,” Tierney said. “And then there ought to be a rebuttable presumption at FERC for any of these 205 filings that hold that if ISO-NE is making such a filing and there’s been an objection raised by the states, especially a collective objection, then they need to rebut that before their filing can proceed.”
No band-aid fixes
The state regulators’ remarks come as ISO-NE and its stakeholders are grappling with doing away with the minimum offer price rule, or MOPR, a market mechanism favored by FERC when it was helmed by the GOP.