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FERC Must Independently Verify Power Plant Outages to Ensure Reliability and Protect Consumers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Public Citizen today urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to independently verify the unplanned and forced generator outages at the nation’s power plants, especially those caused by climate-induced extreme weather events. In the publicly filed comments, Public Citizen highlights faults in FERC’s reliance on self-reporting by owners of generation on the causes of forced and unplanned outages.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the private corporation it tasks with overseeing reliability, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), meet in an upcoming Joint Technical Conference to discuss winter reliability matters.

The filing is available here. 

Tyson Slocum, Public Citizen’s energy program director, issued the following statement:

“The North American Electric Reliability Corporation’s collection of unplanned and forced generator outage data is flawed because it relies upon unverified submissions by the owners of the power plants. NERC conducts no independent corroboration of unplanned and forced generator outage incidents, tainting the data set’s legitimacy. 

“NERC’s procedures ignore the fact that entities that own more than one power plant in a market have financial incentive to prolong scarcity events in order to earn higher profits at their still-operating units. Such intentional capacity withholding is a constant threat to FERC’s market-based rate program, and because NERC does not verify the accuracy of the data, market manipulation by unscrupulous power generators may escape scrutiny. 

“FERC must require NERC to independently verify unplanned outage reports by all generators that own more than one facility in a market. The accuracy and reliability of data is paramount for regulators to appropriately diagnose and remedy issues, and NERC’s failure to do so threatens grid reliability.”