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NARUC May Consider Gas-Electricity Coordination

The board of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) may address the issue of coordinating U.S. natural gas and electricity grids at its next national meeting, according to the head of the natural gas committee.

California Public Utilities Commissioner (CPUC) Timothy Alan Simon, who is head of the NARUC natural gas committee, said last Thursday at a CPUC meeting he was taking the resolution to the state regulators' organization after being involved in new studies and workshops on the issue by the National Petroleum Council (NPC) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Earlier in September, Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioner Philip Moeller said a formal rulemaking may be required to resolve the inconsistencies in scheduling between natural gas pipelines and power generators (see NGI, Sept. 24). This is opposite of the opinion held by Chairman Jon Wellinghoff, who earlier this month suggested that a rulemaking was not the way to go (see NGI, Sept. 10).

The dispute is not new. Earlier this year the Natural Gas Supply Association (NGSA) listed some of the coordination issues, including: the differences between gas and electric day scheduling; the operational and cost impacts of generation on existing pipeline shippers; gas and power communications; as well as electric reliability concerns associated with pipeline contracting practices and power market rate structures.

In a CPUC meeting Simon told his colleagues that California needs to pay more attention to the coordination growing issue. He noted that panel discussions on the "harmonization" issue have been held at the last two national meetings NARUC holds quarterly. "Largely the interest in this issue has come from the unfortunate outage that occurred in 2011 in the Southwest," Simon said (see NGI, May 16, 2011). "This really brought this issue to everybody's attention, and I think this is critical to California.

"As we increase our renewable portfolio standard (RPS) from 20% to 33%, we're going to see an increased dependency on natural gas for firming and shaping of those renewable loads."

Simon added that a large part of California's overall electricity supplies come from two major municipal utilities, some of which have large portfolios of coal-fired generation. "Now that fuel is switching as well, so even more of the load is coming to rely on gas," he said. "This is a discussion going on nationally that is very relevant to California."

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