Court upholds electric grid planning rule

A federal appeals court ruled Friday that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) was within its rights to require electric utilities to make regional transmission plans.

The ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the FERC’s Order 1000. The order also mandated that regional planning for new transmission infrastructure account for renewable energy integration.

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The court found that the commission had sufficient authority under the Federal Power Act “to require transmission providers to participate in a regional planning process.”

The same law allowed the agency to require a new way to allocate the costs of new grid infrastructure and mandate input from outside stakeholders, among other reforms in the order issued two years ago. A group of electric utilities, industry organizations, state regulators and others filed various lawsuits to challenge it.

Environmental groups lauded the decision.

“The unanimous court decision is a major win for clean energy and the environment. It affirms that grid operators must consider carbon standards and other clean energy policies in planning the electric grid,” John Moore, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement.

“The decision also affirms FERC’s commonsense finding that regional transmission planning is better for consumers and the environment,” he said.

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) said the order increases efficiency in the electric grid by improving the regional planning process.

“As the backbone of our energy infrastructure, the transmission system is designed to supply vital electricity in the most efficient way possible,” EDF attorney John Finnigan said in a statement. “FERC 1000 is the key to unlocking efficiencies that have the potential to incorporate more clean energy solutions in the planning process, which will result in low-cost electricity and clean air.”