On August 19, 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued a Notice of Public Comment on its draft triennial National Electric Transmission Congestion Study (“Congestion Study”). DOE prepares such congestion studies every three years pursuant to Section 216 of the Federal Power Act (FPA), as added by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005).
In the draft Congestion Study, DOE identifies transmission constraints and congestion and their consequences (including monetary, policy and adverse consumer consequences), focusing on the recent past and current expectations for the next three to five years. The draft Congestion Study presents regional findings for the four geographic quadrants of the United States, excluding the area covered by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. DOE does not propose in the draft Congestion Study to designate any “national interest electric transmission corridors” (National Corridors) under Section 216 of the FPA. Such a designation would be a prerequisite for the potential exercise by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission of its “backstop” transmission siting authority also created by EPAct 2005. However, DOE states that it might designate one or more National Corridors in the final version of the Congestion Study if doing so would be an appropriate response to transmission constraints or congestion in a specific area. The draft Congestion Study’s assessment of transmission constraints and congestion does not address whether or how to fix constraints or congestion, but rather seeks to inform discussion regarding potential mitigation of those issues. In addition, this draft Congestion Study differs from prior congestion studies in several ways, including that DOE increased its consultation with states during the preparation of the study.1
Comments on the draft Congestion Study are due by Monday, October 20, 2014. After DOE reviews and considers the public comments, it will prepare and release a final version of the Congestion Study as required by Section 216 of the FPA.
1 See Cal. Wilderness Coalition v. DOE, 631 F.3d 1072 (9th Cir. 2011) (vacating DOE’s 2006 Congestion Study after finding that the agency did not adequately consult with states in the preparation of the study).