On June 4, 2013, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ("FERC") posed data requests to each of the country's Independent System Operators and Regional Transmission Organizations as part of its efforts to explore improvements to the coordination of the natural gas and electric markets. As natural gas has become the fuel of choice for more and more electric generating facilities, concerns have arisen regarding the reliability impacts of insufficient infrastructure to deliver needed gas supplies and other impediments to the seamless coordination of these markets. Over the past year, FERC staff has held a series of technical conferences to consider these issues. In April, FERC accepted a proposal by ISO New England Inc. ("ISO-NE") to align the deadlines for the participation and commitment of resources in ISO-NE's day-ahead electric market with the trading patterns in natural gas markets.
The requests ask each region by July 5, 2013 to provide a response detailing:
- Steps that can be taken in the short-term to enhance gas-electric coordination (e.g., by January 2014);
- Whether the region is considering changes to align its day-ahead scheduling practices with the markets for natural gas similar to the recently-accepted changes in ISO-NE;
- Whether the region has any specific concerns regarding the coming winter and, if so, whether there are actions FERC can take to address these concerns;
- Whether shifting the start of the gas operating day - which currently begins at 10 a.m. - ahead of the increased demand for electricity in the morning could improve coordination in the region;
- If gas system contingencies are taken into account in system planning; and
- What steps the region is taking to improve its awareness of local conditions, such as planned or unplanned maintenance of natural gas pipelines, and whether there is anything that FERC can do to make improvements in this area.
The requests suggest that FERC is considering taking steps, both in the near-term and long-term, to address perceived inadequacies in existing practices in the electric and gas industries.