On February 28, 2013, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) submitted proposed revisions to its Standard Process Manual (SPM) to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for approval. The SPM describes the procedures used by NERC in developing Reliability Standards. The proposed changes to the SPM were developed over the course of a year, with a three-stage commenting process providing input from stakeholders. The final stakeholder ballots were returned with over 85 percent approval for the proposed revisions.
The proposed changes would streamline NERC’s standards development process and increase the emphasis on consistency, expert input and results-based outcomes. In addition, a new Section 16, “Waiver,” was added to the SPM, allowing the Standards Committee to modify the development process for good cause and with five days’ notice. Waivers are intended to address situations where the development process is time constrained due to a particular regulatory directive, or to address an urgent reliability issue, including the declaration of a national emergency that involves the reliability of the bulk electric system or a cyber attack on that system.
A broad-based group of trade associations, including the American Public Power Association, the Edison Electric Institute, the Electricity Consumers, Resource Council, the Electric Power Supply Association, the Large Public Power Counsel, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and the Transmission Access Policy Study Group, filed comments in support of the standards development process changes proposed by NERC. Silicon Valley Power (SVP), the municipal utility of Santa Clara, California, filed comments expressing concern that the proposed waiver process would grant too much discretion to the Standards Committee to bypass the standards development process. SVP asked FERC to direct NERC either to withdraw the proposal or further clarify the waiver process or, in the alternative, order procedural revisions to put the burden of proof on NERC to defend a waiver decision. NERC filed comments defending the waiver provisions, arguing the need for flexibility in certain limited circumstances. NERC also emphasized that the waivers will only affect the timing of revisions to the standards, not the actual voting requirements.
The revisions to the SPM are pending before the Commission in FERC Docket No. RR13-2-000.