FERC and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) said Thursday they are taking steps to ensure that operators of the U.S. bulk electric system “can focus their resources on keeping people safe and the lights on” during the coronavirus emergency.

“These steps include temporary relief from certain compliance requirements and the postponement of on-site audits, certifications, and other on-site activities through July,” said Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Neil Chatterjee. “We will continue to work with NERC to review our posture and consider additional actions as circumstances evolve.” 

The regulatory agencies said the effects of the coronavirus will be considered an acceptable basis for noncompliance with obtaining and maintaining personnel certification, as required in Reliability Standard PER-003-2, from March 1 to Dec. 31, and for case-by-case noncompliance with Reliability Standard requirements involving periodic actions that would have been taken between March 1 and July 31.

Regional entities will postpone on-site audits, certifications and other on-site activities at least until July 31, the agencies said.

“FERC and NERC recognize the uncertainties regarding the response to and recovery from the coronavirus outbreak and will continue to evaluate the situation to determine whether to extend these dates,” the agencies said. “Our shared goal is to ensure all registered entities balance the concerns for the health and welfare of their workforce while staying focused on the mission of supplying power to consumers across North America.”

FERC plans to hold technical conferences scheduled through May via conference call or WebEx, while others will be postponed, Chatterjee said. In addition, Caroline Wozniak was named the point of contact for all industry inquiries related to the impacts of coronavirus on FERC-jurisdictional activities.